Moving equipment and storage rental giant U-Haul may have run afoul of federal wage and overtime laws.
The company operates a virtual call center (or a work-at-home call center) in which employees are paid by the hour using a time tracking program called “Time Clock,” and it has been reported that at-home agents are required to complete a number of unpaid off-the-clock tasks before they logging into the program, which is considered a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Under the FLSA, workers are compensated for all “hours worked,” which includes all of the time they must be on duty, on the employer’s premises, or at any other prescribed place of work (including their homes) from the beginning of the first principal activity of the workday to the end of the last principal activity of the workday. 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 call center employees (such as U-Haul’s at-home-agents) is starting the computer to download work instructions, load computer applications, or work-related emails. Similarly, the last principal activity at the end of the day can include closing down computer applications and shutting down the computer.
Allegations have been made that employees at U-Haul’s virtual call center have been forced to engage in off-the-clock activities that include:
- Starting up computers
- Connecting to servers
- Testing communication devices functionality
- Loading computer applications
- Troubleshooting technical difficulties, and S
- Sending and reviewing work-related emails
The FLSA requires an employer is to pay an employee for all hours worked at the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and some states and cities mandate an even higher minimum wage. If the total number of hours worked by the employee (including off-the-clock work) is not at least equal to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, then the employer has likely violated the FLSA’s minimum wage requirements. If an employer pays an employee at or just above $7.25 per hour, even the smallest amount of off-the-clock work could reduce the effective rate and subject the employer to an FLSA claim.
Additionally, the FLSA requires employers compensate their hourly employees at one-and-one-half times their regular hourly rate for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours in any given workweek. In the event an employee performs 40 hours of on-the-clock work, any off-the-clock work that pushes the employee over the forty-hour threshold must be compensated at one-and-one-half the employee’s regular rate of pay. For example, if an employee worked 38 hours on-the-clock, but performed four hours of off-the-clock work during the work week, then the employee must be paid time-and-one-half for the two hours of overtime worked.
The FLSA permits employees to recover liquidated damages of double the amount that is owed to them when the employer’s violation is willful, knowing, intentional, or reckless. The law also allows a worker to recover all reasonable costs and attorney fees incurred in the course of the litigation.
The attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Employment Litigation Group are interviewing U-Haul virtual call center workers from across the country to determine if their rights have been violated and if they are entitled to recover unpaid wages and damages. If you worked for U-Haul as an at-home-agent in the past three years, please contact us today!