For telemarketers at a publishing company in Pennsylvania, taking breaks for water, a trip to the bathroom, or a brief rest was cutting into their wages. For each minute employees were not making sales calls, their salaries were docked, which often meant their paychecks were below the federal minimum wage. During an investigation of a Las Vegas telemarketing company, it was revealed that employees were being paid based on a percentage of individual sales. This resulted in many of the employers working for weeks with little or no pay. Both practices are likely to be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Telemarketers Feel the Effects of Withheld Wages
There are an estimated 234,520 telemarketers in the United States, covering a wide range of services from business support to electronic shopping, and the job can be demanding. There is constant pressure to contact businesses or individual clients to solicit sales for goods and services or to solicit a charitable donation. In-depth knowledge of products and services is required to provide accurate answers to all the customer questions. Often, there is a set time limit to deliver a prepared sales talk and complete the sale or donation. Every telemarketing company is different. Some may pay commission, some may pay salary, and some may pay both. In order to make money, telemarketers are often required to make a huge volume of calls and successful pitches.
Pennsylvania Telemarketers Make a Case
In the case of the telemarketing company in Malvern, Pennsylvania, employees had to clock in and out for each break they took, even when those breaks lasted only a minute or two—to stretch their legs, get a glass of water, or go to the restroom. Their employer deducted the accumulated break time from their total hours worked each week. According to the federal judge who examined the case, this practice is in direct violation of the FLSA. According to this act, rehabilitative breaks—those which last 20 minutes or less—must be counted as hours worked and paid for as working time. The FLSA requires that employees be paid “at least the minimum salary 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.”
How Employers Withhold Wages
There are a number of different ways your employer can withhold money that you have earned. These include:
- Deny an overtime claim. Employees in some fields may be denied overtime pay. This can happen to call center workers who are forced to work off the clock and repair and service technicians who work extended hours without overtime pay.
- Improperly classify your status. Oil and gas fieldworkers are often improperly classified as exempt employees. However, when this is not the case, these workers should be paid for all overtime hours. Improper classification can also extend to workers who are incorrectly classified as independent contractors. Additionally, employees may be misclassified as Executive, Professional, and Administrative which can affect their status to receive overtime pay.
- Not include hours worked. Some employers fail to pay for time included as work time such as rehabilitative breaks, meal time, on-call time, and travel time.
- Use tip pools and tip credits. Many restaurant employees participate in tip pools, but these pools may be illegal if the money is distributed to employees who should not be included in the pool. Your employer may be violating the FLSA regulations for tip pools and credits, and this could be negatively affecting your monthly paycheck.