As technology continues to virtually eradicate the physical distances between us, more and more people are working from home, either as freelancers, or as employees for a company. The benefits of working from home are many and varied, particularly in the realm of work/life balance, but it also has the hazard of blurring the line between work and downtime. As the office has just recently moved into the home, employers and employees alike are still struggling to define that line between work time and personal time.
According to a recent class action wage and hour lawsuit against Sutherland Global Services Inc., the technology management services company allegedly violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay its home-based customer service representatives for all the time they spent working.
The class action lawsuit was filed in spring of 2015 by two former employees of Sutherland on behalf of themselves and all other current and former home-based customer service representatives for the outsourcing company. The complaint alleges that, for every shift they work, the employees spend almost half an hour starting and shutting down company computers, applications, and servers. They were allegedly not paid for any of the time spent performing these tasks, but the complaint alleges that it all should have been compensable time. According to the wage and hour lawsuit, the time the employees spent performing these tasks provided a direct benefit to the employer because they were necessary to the employees being able to complete their work-related tasks throughout the rest of their shifts.
Sutherland continues to deny all the allegations brought by the wage and hour lawsuit, but has agreed to settle the dispute for $1.075 million in order to avoid the hassle and expense of continuing to pursue the dispute in court. The settlement amount will cover the back wages Sutherland allegedly owes to more than 7,000 current and former employees who have worked as home-based customer service representatives for the company.
According to the terms of the proposed settlement agreement, class members will be paid on a “pro rata share” basis to cover the back wages and overtime their employer allegedly owes them. For the purposes of the settlement, both parties have asked the court to certify a provisional class of plaintiffs made up of all the current and former home-based customer service representatives who worked for Sutherland from May 22, 2012 to July 29, 2016.
The terms of the settlement also allow Sutherland to continue denying it has done anything wrong. Defendants frequently agree to settle legal disputes outside of court, even when they’re sure of their innocence, in order to avoid the uncertain outcome of what could turn out to be a very long and very expensive legal battle. No one can predict a jury’s decision with 100% certainty, so Sutherland is probably better off paying a settlement now than waiting for the possibility of a higher court-ordered award.
The plaintiffs are likewise better off settling outside of court because they get the certainty of the settlement amount, rather than risking the possibility of the court ruling in Sutherland’s favor.
The Chicago class action and employment law attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have three decades of experience fighting to help employees who are victims of wage, overtime and tip theft by their employers. We have a team of Chicago unpaid overtime lawyers who concentrate on prosecuting state and nationwide class action lawsuits. Our attorneys work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and pursue claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Cicero and Bollingbrook. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, Kane and Cook Counties.
Our Palatine and Chicago Hts. overtime and employment lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers mis-classify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.
The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago and Oak Brook, and represents clients throughout the country who have unpaid overtime and other employment right claims.