The U.S. Labor Department has recovered nearly $144,000 in back wages and penalties from Sitel Operating Corp. in Oak Ridge, federal officials said Thursday.
Sitel has agreed to pay 486 employees $68,901 in back wages after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and record-keeping provisions at the company’s facility in Oak Ridge, a press release said. Sitel also paid civil money penalties of $74,900, which were assessed for repeat violations of the FLSA, the release said.
It said investigators from the division’s Nashville District Office found that employees who worked on one client account, United Services Automobile Association, were not paid for time spent conducting required preparatory work before their shifts started. Specifically, the company failed to pay its employees for the 28-39 minutes they were required to spend each week logging into Web applications before they could access the time clock to start their shift, the release said. Because the employees were not paid for all hours worked, they were denied overtime compensation at time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek, as required by the FLSA, the Labor Department said. The employer also failed to keep accurate records of the time employees spent conducting preparatory work, the release said.
“Employers must pay workers for all time spent conducting work activities, which includes any work done before or after a shift officially begins or ends,” said Nettie Lewis, district director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Nashville District Office. “This case should be a wake-up call to other employers to review their employment practices and ensure that their employees are being compensated for all work activities they perform.”
The release said Sitel has agreed to pay all back wages and civil money penalties and maintain compliance with the FLSA. The firm, doing business as Sitel, provides phone-based business operations support to companies that want to outsource those functions. Sitel’s employees make and receive calls on behalf of Sitel’s clients to sell products, fulfill orders, take claims, provide technical support, answer customer questions, and collect payments.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates—including commissions, bonuses, and incentive pay—for hours worked beyond 40 per week. 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 work activity to the end of the last principal activity of the workday. Additionally, the law requires that accurate records of employees’ wages, hours, and other conditions of employment be maintained.
The department has a smartphone application to help employees independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed. Available in English and Spanish, users can track regular work hours, break times, and any overtime hours for one or more employers. This new technology is significant because, instead of relying on their employers’ records, workers now can keep their own records. This and other department apps are available at http://www.dol.gov/dol/apps.
The division’s Nashville office can be reached at (615) 781-5344. Information on the FLSA and other wage laws is available by calling the division’s toll-free helpline at (866) 4US-WAGE (487-9243) and at www.dol.gov/whd.