New York, NY: An unpaid wages class action lawsuit has been filed against Sykes Enterprises, which purchased Alpine Access in August, 2012. Filed by a group of former employees on behalf of all other current or former employees of SEI similarly situated, the lawsuit contends that SEI willfully violated state and federal labor laws including the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).
According to the lawsuit, SEI employs over 38,000 employees in 75+ global customer service call centers across the United States and 23 other countries. SEI also employs thousands of at home agents throughout North America. These operations are staffed by “customer service agents,” “customer service representatives,” “medical customer service agents,” “technical customer service agents,” “bilingual Spanish customer service agents,” and other similarly described personnel (collectively, “CSAs”). However, regardless of the employees’ job titles, all CSAs at SEI perform the same basic job duties – providing customer support to individuals over the telephone.
The CSA jobs at SEI (both at-home and at call center locations) are unskilled, non-exempt positions that typically pay from $8.00 to $11.80 per hour (i.e., a few dollars more than the federally mandated minimum wage).
In July, 2008, US Department of Labor issued Fact Sheet #64 to alert call center employees to some of the abuses which are prevalent in the industry. One of those abuses, which is occurring in this case, is an employer’s refusal to pay for work “from the beginning of the first principal activity of the workday to the end of the last principal activity of the workday.”
The lawsuit contends that “in order to perform their job, Plaintiffs were required to start up a USB Drive and log-in to several secure servers in order to access pertinent client data, sales records, etc. The preliminary setup and log-in process involved the startup of an entire suite of programs, the creation of secure (VPN) connections with SEI’s and its corporate customer’s computer systems, and the downloading of customer information. A typical CSA logs in and out of these systems 2-3 times per day as part of their work schedule.”
Additionally, the lawsuit states “Plaintiffs were not allowed or even able to electronically “clock in” for their shift(s) until the setup and log-in process was complete; meaning that Plaintiffs and all Class members worked “off-the-clock” during the “boot-up” process without compensation. The time Plaintiffs spent setting up and logging in each session directly benefitted SEI and the process was an essential part of Plaintiffs’ job responsibilities as a CSA,” the lawsuit reads.
The Plaintiffs contend that “SEI’s computer system automatically “clocked out” Plaintiffs at the end of their designated shift(s) even if Plaintiffs were in the middle of a call. The postliminary activity was never accounted for or paid for by SEI, even though they had the ability to do so.”
The Plaintiffs allege that these postliminary activities were an essential part of Plaintiffs’ job responsibilities and these off-the-clock activities directly benefitted SEI and its corporate clients.