You’ve been working for a call center for over a year now, and you’ve noticed some irregularities in your pay checks. At first you thought it was because you were new and the payroll was adjusted for training hours. Then you thought perhaps it was because you worked overnights and the hours were adjusted differently. However, now you’re pretty sure that your employer is knowingly paying you for less hours than you actually work.
You have now made it a point to track your hours yourself, and you discovered that with the extra time it takes to catch up on emails, along with the occasional long call, you work approximately 44 hours every week. However, your checks have always stated that you only work between 37 and 38 hours each week.
You brought the issue to your payroll department on several different occasions, but nothing has been done.
How is this possible? Why are you getting paid roughly five hours less than you work every week? Why aren’t you getting paid the overtime you rightfully deserve, and what can you do about it?
Common Factors That Contribute to Call Center Pay Irregularities
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over 2.5 million people work as call center representatives in the United States. Unfortunately, many of these workers are not paid for the full amount of work that they do. Many call centers use payroll tricks, intimidation, and screwy timekeeping, in order to keep their own costs down—as well as to prevent their employees from accruing overtime.
Under the Fair Labors Standards Act (FLSA), the U.S. Department of Labor guarantees rightful pay for all hours worked. It states that “employees must be paid for all worked hours, including but not limited to, the beginning of the first principal activity of the workday to the end of the last principal activity of the workday.” Therefore, call center employees are guaranteed pay from the moment they step onto the call center floor, until the moment they step off of it, no matter if they’re logged into their phones or not. Unfortunately, many employers don’t see it that way, and have developed clever ways of tracking payroll hours in order to pay less wages. These tricks and factors include:
Phones That Act as Time Cards
Many call centers track their employees’ payroll hours by recording the time in which they’re logged into their phones. This may seem legitimate as you can’t do your job unless you’re on the phone. Unfortunately, taking calls isn’t the only responsibility you have. Before taking your first call you must set up your computer, and get your templates and emails in position. If you do this after you log into your phone, you run the chance of getting a call before you are setup. On the other hand if you setup before logging in, you’re not paid for that time. Most employees will choose to setup their computers without getting paid in order to prevent frustration and confusion on their first call.
Lunches Are Recorded to the Second
Since your phone is your punch card, when you take your lunch you are required to punch out and then log back in 30 minutes or 60 minutes later. Unfortunately, the clock on your phone doesn’t denote seconds, which means that if you clock out at 12:00, you must wait until 12:31 to clock back in to make sure you were gone for a full 30 minutes. Although one minute may not seem like a big deal, over the course of a month that one minute turns into 20 minutes in which you should have been paid.
Poor Time Rounding
Clock-outs are recorded to the previous minute, meaning that if you clock out at 5:30:59, your payroll will reflect that you clocked out at 5:30. However, if you clock in at 9:29:30, payroll will record it as 9:30. Again, a few seconds may not seem like a big deal—until you put it into perspective. A minute and a half lost every day comes to 30 minutes a month and six hours a year, just because of a few seconds.
Off-the-Clock Catch up Work
As with the problem of setting up your computer and taking calls, the same issue arises when you need to clock out. If you’ve spent eight hours answering back-to-back calls, you probably have dozens of emails to send and information to gather. However, if you’re still logged into your phone, you may wind up getting calls instead of having the time to finish your work. Therefore, most employees will log out of their phones in order to have the uninterrupted time they need to finish their correspondences before being able to leave. The FLSA states that they should be paid for that time, but since they’re logged out of the phone, their employer doesn’t record it as time worked.
In addition to skimming off a few minutes here and there, employers will do anything to keep you from accruing overtime, including making you log out of your phone early, denying you pay for training and meetings, “forgetting” to add overtime pay to your check, and “accidentally” paying your OT as regular pay hoping you wouldn’t notice.
For these reasons, it is extremely important to always track your work times to the second, and always compare your numbers with your check’s numbers.
When the Numbers Don’t Add up
If you believe that your employer is knowingly withholding rightful pay and earned overtime wages, contact us immediately for help. We know how tricky employers can be. We also know how to beat them at their own game. The law is on your side, so don’t let your employer confuse you or intimidate you into settling for less than you’re worth. Call us today to get the pay, respect, and peace of mind you work for and deserve.