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Aggrieved Call Center Employees Take Dell to Court
[February 16, 2007]

Aggrieved Call Center Employees Take Dell to Court

TMCnet Contributing Editor
With a desire to establish and sustain an egalitarian society, the judiciary system of every country undertakes special measures to safeguard the interests of its citizens. The business world too has donned the social responsibility hat, undertaking activities for employee as well as communal welfare. Unfortunately, not every company is paying proper attention to such measures.

Recently, two call center employees from Dell (News - Alert) Inc.’s facility at Roseburg filed a suit against the company stating that its wage policy abuses the federal and state wage and hour laws. The fortune 500 giant has been accused of inappropriate remuneration structure and policies.

In a complaint dated February 8, 2007, David Norman and Walter Romas, residents of Roseburg, accused Dell of denying earned wages and overtime emoluments to its sales representatives working at the Roseburg call center. Both of them filed a complaint at the United States District Court in Eugene. Similar complaints have been received from all over the country.

Norman is still employed with the company. An attorney in Kansas City is looking into his petition, whereas an attorney at Eugene is attending complaints filed by Romas, who initially worked with Dell from December 2003 to July 2006. Eugene’s attorney, Derek Johnson, who is representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement, “Paying employees for all the time they work is not a novel or controversial concept. It is time for Dell to comply with the law.”

Efforts are being made to convert this petition into a class action lawsuit, wherein all the employees who have worked for Dell in Roseburg for the last five years will be entitled to reimbursement for overtime wages due but not paid.

Although the exact amount sought as compensation has not yet been disclosed by the plaintiffs, according to the estimation by the attorneys at Johnson, Clifton, Larson & Schaller Attorneys, and Counselors at Law in Eugene, more than 1,000 employees are reportedly eligible for the wage settlement.

Sean Beeman, Don Hukel, William Kemp, Jason Kottke and Shirley Morgan sales representatives at Dell’s Roseburg call center have readily become partisans to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs have attacked Dell’s timekeeping system, Kronos (News - Alert), stating that it fails to record the exact number of hours spent by an employee at the call center. As a result of which the total number of hours calculated by this system against which the wage payment is made are inaccurate; consequently they are paid less than what they are supposed to.

Another example of unlawful wage calculation is the manner in which a sales representative’s break hours are calculated. It has been stated that an hours pay is deducted if an employee takes 30 to 45 minute lunch break, which is both illegal and unethical.

However, the petition states that “Dell is aware” of the shortcomings of its timekeeping system and the resulting problems, “but it has failed to correct the timekeeping problem with Kronos.”

In addition to the faulty wage calculation methods, Dell also denied reimbursement to its representatives for the additional working hours spent on carrying out associated tasks that are both related and integral to the smooth functioning of their main responsibilities. Activities such as daily meetings, booting up the computers, and corresponding with customers via e-mails, and so on cannot be ignored and merit compensation. According to the employees, such activities are “integral and indispensable job duties.”

Fully aware of the situation, Dell is yet to take some rectification measures. According to the petition, both wage denial and inaccurate time calculation are “willfully” committed “in order to save payroll cost.”

It also states, “Dell enjoys ill-gained profits at the expense of its call center employees.”

The Roseburg center was inaugurated in November 2002 in a big way by giving employment to 250 people. The company received a five-year property tax exemption as an incentive from the city and county in exchange to the compensation package proposed by the company amounting to $40,000 per year.

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Rahul Prabhakar is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

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