Working should not be complicated. You work for X number of hours and get X amount of pay for it. But wage and hour lawsuits have increased by 432% in the last 20 years. Why would this be?
One reason could be that, with information more freely available, workers know their rights and are not afraid to take employers to court. Also possible, the Department of Labor hasn’t had the resources to enforce the law as comprehensively, and employers have been taking advantage of this. In addition, the workplace itself has becomes more complex and employers have failed to take their technology and infrastructure requirements into account.
So what if they refuse to pay you for the time it takes to deal with their technology? What if the hour or so it takes you to set up your work station isn’t considered part of your work day? You’re not working, they can say. You’re setting things up so you can work. This is what the employees are arguing in the Customer Services Agents Unpaid Wages class action against Sykes Enterprises.
Even though it was taking a significant amount of time for Sykes Enterprises customer service agents to start their computer, load software and log into the company’s secure servers, they were not able to clock in until they had accessed the system. This was time the employees were expected to take as their own. Even worse, at the end of the day the system clocked out automatically, even if the representative was in the middle of a call.
In an attempt to reach out to customer service agents that might be experiencing this, the US Department of Labor put out Fact Sheet 64 which says:
“Also included is any additional time the employee is allowed (i.e., suffered or permitted) to work. An example of the first principal activity of the day for agents/specialists/representatives working in call centers includes starting the computer to download work instructions, computer applications, and work-related emails.”
This case is ongoing, and we’ll keep you updated, but, usually, employees sue their employers over wages for three reasons:
• Hourly employees who weren’t paid for hours worked;
• Salaried workers who are miscategorized and owed overtime; and
• Employees working for the tipped minimum wage who don’t make enough in tips to bring their pay up to the minimum wage.
Workers work for compensation. Employers who refuse that compensation are not playing by the rules. There are protections available to you, and if you think you are experiencing one of these situations, help can be found here.
There are government resources available that can help you learn more about these topics, but because employment is a complex topic, it’s usually best to consult a lawyer for help.
photo credit: CWCS Managed Hosting via Flickr cc
photo credit: Philip Brewer via Flickr cc