Employers are required to pay non-exempt employees a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and overtime at a rate of “not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.” Employees are required to be paid for all hours worked; employees cannot be permitted to work off-the-clock. Call center or telemarketing employees have been the subject of wage and hour disputes for off-the-clock wage violations.
Call centers are central customer service operations whereby agents take telephone calls for their company. Call center employees must be paid for all hours worked in a workweek. “Hours worked” includes all time the call center employee is on duty, from the beginning of the work day to the end. “Hours worked” generally includes rest periods, except bona fide meal periods. An employee need not be paid for a rest period only if the employee is completely relieved from work responsibilities for a period of at least 30 minutes.
Often, call center employees are required to arrive to work early to log into computers, start software applications, and prepare to accept calls from customers the moment their shifts begin. Call center employees have also been required to work during breaks, perform unpaid tasks such as customer call-backs, read and respond to mandatory emails, and complete sales orders. Most call centers have software programs on their computer that allow employees to “clock in.” Whether the employee must be paid for the time spent starting a computer depends on a variety of factors including whether starting the computer is “integral and indispensable” to that employee’s principal activities
Call center employees must be compensated for duties performed before and after a scheduled shift if the employer knows, or should know, that an employee is continuing to work. When an employer’s records are inaccurate or inadequate, an employee has carried the burden of proving hours worked by showing with “just and reasonable inference” the amount and extent of work completed.
If a call center employer is aware of a call center employee starting work prior to the shift or working through breaks, the employee must be paid wages for this time. An employer cannot dock an hourly employee’s pay if the employee began working before his or her shift begin or continued working after the shift ended. Nonexempt employees must be paid for all time “suffered or permitted to work.” If a call-center employee clocks-in early or clocks-out late, that employee can be disciplined but must still be paid for the time worked.
Even if a call center employee is paid a salary, they are not automatically exempt from minimum wage and overtime. Exemptions from overtime or minimum wage exemptions depends on the employee’s job duties and responsibilities as well as amount of salary. Call center salaried employees may not meet all requiremements to be an exempt employee. Exemptions from overtime and minimum wage include executive, administrative, and “professional employees,” which may include computer professionals.
Many employer’s make the mistake of following industry peers in regards to wage and hour law. Every week a new case comes out with a huge verdict or settlement against an employer who likely followed the example of other companies in the same industry. Simply following the example of others may subject you to significant liability.
Whether you are an employee or an employer wanting more information on North Carolina or Federal Wage and Hour Laws, contact the attorneys at Maginnis Howard for a consultation regarding your rights. We represent employees who have not been paid their wages. Our attorneys also represent companies with employment related issues. Contact Raleigh wage attorney Karl S. Gwaltney at 919.960.1545 for a free consultation regarding your rights or submit a confidential new case inquiry here. The firm takes certain wage and hour/overtime cases throughout North Carolina, particularly when groups of workers are involved. Contact the firm to discuss your overtime claim today.