To cut costs, many call center companies now employ agents who work from home. While it’s perfectly fine to save money on office space, those telecommuting employees must still be paid at least the minimum wage, as well as overtime. This is mandated by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Unfortunately, some call centers and business process outsourcing companies are guilty of withholding wages and overtime pay from home-based telephone agents and representatives.
How Do Call Centers Violate the FLSA
Kelly Services, Tech USA, Teleperformance, Concentrix, and Signia Marketing, have all faced accusations they violated the FLSA and withheld wages, overtime, or both from at-home agents. Many have paid out millions in settlements to the employees they cheated.
Some of these violations happen when agents are required to perform certain tasks before or after they officially clock in, or are not compensated for time spent dealing with administrative matters. This includes:
- Starting up their computers, signing on to applications and downloading work instructions
- Shutting down applications and computers after ending their shifts
- Reading work-related emails before and after their shifts
- Attending team meetings before or after their shifts
- Waiting on hold with technical support when disconnected from computer systems and networks
In some cases, agents can spend 30 minutes or more of unpaid time per shift on these tasks and issues. These same employees might also face pressure to not record all the hours they work, or to work off the clock.
Withholding Overtime from At-Home Call Center Reps
Along with forcing at-home agents to underreport their hours, some call centers may also try to avoid paying them overtime. This goes hand-in-hand with pressuring employees to work before or after they officially clock in. That unreported time would frequently count as overtime if properly recorded, as agents often work more than 40 hours a week.
Many employers also attempt to convince at-home employees that the time spent starting up and logging into computers is equivalent to their normal commute time if they had to drive to an office—often called a “virtual commute.” Such an explanation should be a red flag for employees.
Unlawfully Misclassifying Workers As Exempt from Overtime
To duck paying overtime, employers may also give an agent a title that makes it sound like he or she has the duties of a supervisor or manager when, in fact, he or she performs the same tasks as an hourly worker (e.g., Team Lead). This is done so the employer can classify the worker as being exempt from overtime, and violates the FLSA if the employee’s duties are not truly those of a manager or supervisor.
Employing agents who work from home may save call center companies the cost of leasing office space, but they should not also be picking the pockets of those at-home employees. Just because a worker is at home does not mean he or she falls outside the scope of the FLSA.
Home-based call center agents must be paid at least the minimum wage and any applicable overtime. Otherwise, their employers must be held accountable for wage theft and abuse.