Benefits & Compensation News

‘Unreasonable’ demands on hourly staff spurs FLSA lawsuit

Granted, plenty of businesses are asking employees to do more with less these days. But when companies demand so much of non-exempt employees that they can’t feasibly get it done on the clock, it’s a problem waiting to happen.

And Jennings, et al., v. Verizon shows how wage-and-hour complaints can quickly snowball into a potentially expensive class-action FLSA lawsuit.

Literally didn’t have time

Heather Jennings — and several other Verizon call center employees — filed a FLSA lawsuit against their employer, claiming they weren’t paid for the pre- and post-shift tasks they did.

Verizon argued that it discouraged employees from working off the clock, and it claimed the tasks the employees were referring to — such as checking work email — could’ve easily been completed in between their service calls.

But the employees’ attorneys painted a much different picture. According to the FLSA lawsuit, management’s productivity expectations were so “unreasonable” that they literally didn’t have any time to complete certain tasks during regular work hours.

Because of this, Verizon employees felt compelled to login to the call center system, prepare for calls, check work email and shut down their system — before and after their assigned shifts.

What the court said

The evidence that Verizon employees’ presented was enough to convince the court that the management’s expectations may not have been able to be fulfilled during regular work hours. And that means the class-action FLSA lawsuit can proceed.

So it looks like Verizon will have to decide whether it’s better to see the thing through or pay out an expensive settlement. We’ll keep you posted on any developments.

Training prevents FLSA lawsuits

In the mean time, this case does offer some good insights for employers.

First, it’s always a good idea to hold regular training sessions with managers and supervisors to make sure they’re not putting unreasonable demands on their employees.

Also, if you find out a non-exempt employee has completed some of pre- or post-shift work for whatever reason, unless that work is “de minimis” — what the FLSA calls “insignificant periods of time … which cannot as a practical matter be precisely recorded for payroll purposes” — chances are he or she must be paid for that time.

The FLSA clearly states that when employees do any pre- or post-shift activities that are necessary for them to complete their jobs, then they must be paid for that time.

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