Call Center Workers Get Class Action OK

July 24, 2003 ( - A federal court in Dallas has conditionally certified a nationwide class of current and former GEICO call center employees, who claim that they were only paid for time on the phone, not time on the clock.

The lead plaintiff is GEICO sales staffer Amie Owens, who works for GEICO in Dallas. She claims she performed such work as booting up and shutting down her various computer programs before and after her shift, as well as a variety of other tasks necessary to performing her job, but was not paid for this time because she was only paid for the time she was logged into the phone system.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn certified the class – which potentially involves as many as 21,000 members – conditionally, meaning the employees must sign that they want to be a party to the suit. The judge’s decision is a blow to Washington-based Geico, the nation’s sixth-largest auto insurer.

GEICO responded to the suit, filed March 26 in United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, in April with a denial to the charges. The response said the suit is “based on the say-so of one disgruntled sales agent” on the “unsupported assertion that GEICO employees are required to spend 30 to 40 minutes each day logging on and off their computers without being paid. That assertion is simply incorrect”, according to a report in The (Lakeland, Florida) Ledger.

Early Start

Richard J. “Rex” Burch, of the law firm Bruckner Burch in Houston, one of the firms that arranged for the class, said GEICO employees in Dallas complained about being required to “come in early and get supplies, read e-mails and make sure they were up-to-date on all the circulars and memos” without being paid for that time. He estimated that, on average, employees worked 2 1/2 hours of unpaid overtime per week, for which he claims they should have received $16 an hour in overtime pay, or a total of about $72 million for the three years, according to NewsDay.

He also said that more than 1,000 others have already elected to join in the federal suit. The class includes all current and former hourly paid, telephone-dedicated employees who worked in GEICO’s call centers as Sales Associates, Customer Service Representatives, Direct Handlers, Billing Associates, or PBX employees who worked at GEICO between March 25, 2000 and the present. This includes all hourly paid, telephone-dedicated employees in the sales, customer service, claims, billing, or PBX departments, regardless of precise job title, according to Houston-based Edwards & George, L.L.P, another law firm involved in the suit.

In a statement, yesterday GEICO, said, “We are currently investigating these allegations, and if we identify any problems, we will, of course, correct them. GEICO was built on the ethic of treating people fairly, our employees as well as our customers.”

In addition to the federal case, a class action suit has been filed against GEICO in California. That suit also claims that GEICO failed to pay wages in accordance with California law for employees who worked in California. The violations alleged in the California case are not limited to overtime claims because California law provides for more favorable remedies for California residents, according to Edwards & George.

There are more details on the case at .