Ex-Amex Travel Workers File FLSA Overtime Suit

February 11, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A lawsuit charges that American Express Travel Related Services required customer service representatives to work unpaid overtime while booting up their computers, logging on to “multiple” programs, and doing paperwork.

Filed in federal court, the suit claims the American Express subsidiary violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by not logging all time worked for payment, including salary determinations for the purposes of the company’s 401(k) plan.

The suit was filed on behalf of plaintiffs and former Phoenix call center employees Cathy Patzke and Martha Knauss, but asks to be certified as a class action to represent about 1,000 other current or former American Express employees as well. The plaintiffs are seeking back pay and other damages.

The company operates customer service call centers in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Utah.

According to the complaint, in addition to not logging time spent getting employees’ work stations ready for the day’s activities, the company also did not recognize for compensation purposes time spent logging off programs and shutting down their computers at the end of a shift. After a shift, the complaint alleged, workers also had do complete company paperwork, write letters to customers and “perform other tasks that were necessary and indispensable to Plaintiffs’ principal work and were performed for the benefit of (the company).”

Other allegations in the suit included that:

  • Workers were required to stay on a telephone call with a customer until the call was complete. If the call continued into the time allotted for the employees’ rest or meal breaks, they were required to complete the call without being paid.
  • An American Express time card program automatically deducted 30 minutes for a daily lunch break regardless of whether the employee actually took the time away from their duties.

Christa Burkhalter, director of corporate affairs and communications for American Express in Phoenix, told the Phoenix Business Journal that the company is aware of the complaint and is a matter “to take very seriously.” She said it is Amex’s policy to not comment on matters in litigation, but said: “It is our intent to defend this case very vigorously.”

The complaint is available here.