A call center is a central customer service operation where agents (often called customer care specialists or customer service representatives) handle telephone calls for their company or on behalf of a client. Clients may include mail-order catalog houses, telemarketing companies, computer product help desks, banks, financial services and insurance groups, transportation and freight handling firms, hotels, and information technology (IT) companies.
If the annual dollar volume of a call center’s sales or business is $500,000 or more, and the enterprise has at least two employees, all employees of the enterprise are covered by the FLSA on an “enterprise” basis. An enterprise may consist of one establishment, or it may be made up of multiple establishments.
Additionally, the FLSA also provides an “individual employee” basis of coverage. If the gross sales or volume of business done does not meet the requisite dollar volume of $500,000 annually, employees may still be covered if they individually engage in interstate commerce, the production of goods for interstate commerce, or in an occupation closely related and directly essential to such production. Interstate commerce includes such activities as transacting business via interstate telephone calls, the Internet or the U.S. Mail (such as handling insurance claims), ordering or receiving goods from an out-of-state supplier, or handling the accounting or bookkeeping for such activities.
Covered nonexempt employees are entitled to be paid at least the federal minimum wage as well as overtime at time and one-half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. (This may not apply to certain executive, administrative, and professional employees, including computer professionals and outside sales, as provided in Regulations 29 CFR 541).
The FLSA requires employers to keep records of wages, hours, and other items, as specified in the recordkeeping regulations. With respect to an employee subject to both minimum wage and overtime provisions, records must be kept as prescribed by Regulations 29 CFR 516. Records required for exempt employees differ from those for non-exempt workers.
Typical Violations in Call Centers
Failure to Count All Hours Worked
Covered employees must be paid for all hours worked in a workweek. In general, “hours worked” includes all time an employee must be on duty, or on the employer's premises or at any other prescribed place of work, 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 agents/specialists/representatives working in call centers includes starting the computer to download work instructions, computer applications, and work-related emails.
Deduction of Rest and Meal Periods Not Given
Rest periods of short duration, usually 20 minutes or less, are common in the industry (and promote employee efficiency), and must be counted as hours worked. Bona fide meal periods (typically 30 minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time as long as the employee is relieved from duty for the purpose of eating a regular meal.
A daily and weekly record of all hours worked, including time spent in pre-shift and post-shift job-related activities, must be kept.
Earnings may be determined on an hourly, salary, commission, or some other basis, but in all such cases the overtime pay due must be computed on the basis of the regular hourly rate derived from all such earnings. This is calculated by dividing the total pay (except for certain statutory exclusions) in any workweek by the total number of hours actually worked. See Regulations 29 CFR 778.
Salaried Call Center Employees May Be Entitled to Overtime
A salary, by itself, does not exempt employees from the minimum wage or from overtime. Whether employees are exempt from minimum wage and/or overtime depends on their job duties and responsibilities as well as the salary paid. Sometimes, in call centers, salaried employees do not meet all the requirements specified by the regulations to be considered as exempt. Regulations 29 CFR 541 contain a discussion of the requirements for several exemptions under the FLSA (i.e., executive, administrative, and professional employees – including computer professionals, and outside sales persons).
If you are a call center worker and believe you have been wrongly denied proper overtime wages or minimum wages by your current or former employer, call 1-888-OVERTIME [888-683-7846] or click here for a free consultation regarding your call center wage rights today.