California Call Center Agents Unpaid Wages Attorney
Call centers operate on low budgets and often try to keep costs as low as possible. Unfortunately, this cutting of corners can sometimes mean that employees aren’t being paid what they have earned. If you work at a call center, you’ll want to be aware of the ways you might not be receiving the wages you deserve.
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The law is clear that employees must be paid for whatever time they spend doing work. However, some businesses make the mistake of having employees perform work functions while not being clocked in. For instance, at call centers, it is often only the hours that employees are at their desks logged into the company systems that they are clocked in.
The problem with this policy is that employees are then not paid for the time that they spend away from the workstation, booting their systems up and getting logged in, or if they were interrupted by management or someone else with a work issue while they were on the way to their work station. Wage theft issues can be particularly prevalent just before an employee clocks in or just after they clock out. These are instances of wage theft, and employees are entitled to the pay for all the time they spend working.
Another common way employees find themselves facing unpaid wages is when they fail to get compensated for overtime hours. California law requires that employers pay their workers overtime under three different circumstances:
- Whenever an employee works a shift of more than eight hours, they are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of 1.5x their normal rate for hours 8-12 of the shift.
- If an employee’s shift were to extend beyond 12 hours, they are to be paid a rate of 2x their normal wage for all hours beyond 12.
- For any hours in a workweek beyond 40, an employee must be paid 1.5x their regular wage.
- If an employee works seven consecutive days or beyond, then for any hours worked the seventh day and any after, an employee must be paid 1.5x their regular rate.
Not paying employees the overtime they are entitled to is another form of wage theft. Unfortunately, this can be a frequent occurrence at call centers. Managers may ask employees to stay beyond eight hours without compensating them. Similarly, employees may find themselves in a situation where they are regularly scheduled for 50 or more hours a week but not receiving the extra 50% pay for the hours worked beyond 40. Additionally, because the seventh-day overtime law is something people may be less aware of, many employees regularly work at least seven days without the overtime pay they should be receiving. This goes particularly unnoticed when the consecutive days cross from one scheduled week into the next.
One of the ways employers regularly attempt to get around overtime pay is by misclassifying their employees. There are two categories of employees who are not required to receive overtime pay:
- Independent contractors
- “Exempt” employees
Employers may attempt to classify regular hourly employees as belonging to these two categories. The problem is that for an employee to belong to either category requires that they fit a certain set of criteria.
Independent contractors are usually paid a flat rate for a specified output. For instance, many recruiters are paid by the hire. Independent contractors also have a lot of flexibility about how they go about doing the work they were hired to do. It’s highly unlikely that a call center job could be classified as an independent contractor position. It is even less likely that this is appropriate in California, where there are further conditions about who can be considered an independent contractor and who cannot.
For instance, depending upon the skills involved in the work, what tools are provided by the employer, and whether or not a work is typically done by contract can all lead to a job that might legally be an independent contractor position in another state to be recognized as traditional employment in California.
Employees who are exempt from California’s overtime law must fit a specific set of criteria. To be considered exempt, an employee must:
- Have a salary equal to or greater than twice the minimum wage for full-time employment would total in a year
- Spend the majority of time doing what we might think of as “white collar” work, such as professional, creative, or managerial work
- Have a role that requires them to act and make decisions on behalf of their employer
These criteria can seem a bit nebulous, and an employment lawyer can help you with the nuance of your situation. However, most call center jobs are unlikely to fit these criteria.
If you work at a call center and have reason to believe you are classified as an independent contractor or exempt, then you may have wages that are owed to you from overtime that has not been paid out. Working with a lawyer to figure out the next steps is something worth considering.
What to Do
Having thorough records is an important part of making a claim against your employer. So if you think that you may have unpaid wages from your call center position, you will want to make sure you have records related to the issue. A record of hours worked, your paystubs, and a copy of any employment contract you may have signed are some of the documents you’ll want to collect. It’s a good idea to contact a wage lawyer as well. Someone who has experience in handling cases like yours can help you understand what your options are for addressing the situation.
Ways to Resolve Your Dispute
When it comes to resolving an unpaid wage dispute with your employer, there are a few options. A lawyer can help you decide which of the options is a strong fit for your unique situation. A lawyer may be able to help you informally correct the situation with your employer. They may also recommend filing a claim with either the Federal Labor Department or California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Another option is to file a civil claim against your employer. Lastly, they could recommend a Private Attorney Generals Act (PAGA) claim, which would allow you to collect a civil penalty but not recover lost wages.
Unpaid Wages Lawyer FAQs
Q: What Might My Employer Not Be Paying Me For?
A: There are a number of ways an employer might not be paying you everything you are owed, including:
- Not paying a rate equivalent to or above the minimum wage, which is $15.50 in California.
- Not paying for the time that work is being done — if you are asked to handle work responsibilities before or after clocking in, then you are entitled to those wages.
- Not giving you legally required overtime pay.
- Misclassifying you as an independent contractor or as exempt to avoid overtime pay.
- Not including pay for vacation time in your final paycheck.
Q: When Should I Receive Overtime Pay?
A: As long as you are eligible for overtime, California law requires overtime pay in three circumstances:
- Any shift that lasts over eight hours should be paid at time-and-a-half for hours 8-12 and at twice regular wages for anything beyond 12.
- Any hours worked past 40 in a week should be paid at time-and-a-half.
- Any consecutive days worked past six days should be paid at time-and-a-half.
Q: How Can I Get My Unpaid Wages Back?
A: There are a few different approaches you can take to getting your unpaid wages restored in California. The primary ones are:
- A private resolution with your employer — often, a letter from your attorney can help to urge this process along.
- A wage claim with the Federal Labor Department
- A wage claim with California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement — often a better option than the Federal one, as the protections in California tend to be stronger than the Federal equivalent.
- A civil lawsuit
Q: Can I Sue for Unpaid Wages in California?
A: Yes, you can sue for unpaid wages in California, although that may not be necessary as it can be a more expensive route. It is not the only option available to you, and you may be able to use different means to resolve the issue with your employer. Having an employment lawyer take a look at the details of your case to figure out which of your options is appropriate for your case can be very helpful. Their experience can give you an idea of what approach may allow you to recover your wages with the least cost.
Let An Experienced Attorney Review Your Options
If you are working at or have worked at a call center and believe you are owed unpaid wages, then you could benefit from having someone take a look at your situation. These issues can be complex, and you want to be sure to find an option that fits your situation. If you think you might have a claim against your call center, contact us today to review your options.