Last week a second lawsuit was filed in federal court accusing Texarkana’s Harte-Hanks call center of not paying workers for all the time they worked.
The most recent civil suit was filed Tuesday on behalf of Mary Ann Bennett, Dorian Cox, Natasha Cooper, Earl Gill, and Darrell Mays, by the Little Rock-based Sanford law firm; the same firm that filed a class action suit against the call center last summer. The allegations in both suits are the same though the most recent suit does not seek certification as a class action.
Harte-Hanks, which manages accounts for Federal Express, allegedly required employees to work off-the-clock before their shifts began, during lunch, and at the end of the day.
“Defendant recorded plaintiff’s regular working time using an electronic system linked to defendant’s telephone system,” the most recent complaint states.
If a service representative was on a call at quitting time or when the noon hour struck, they often labored unpaid, according to the complaint. Prior to clocking in when they arrived for work, call reps often spent roughly 15 minutes logging into to the computer system and opening programs and applications they needed during calls. The suits allege Harte-Hanks didn’t pay employees for that time.
“Even though the process of logging in and starting defendant’s systems took as much as fifteen minutes, defendant specifically instructed plaintiffs not to clock in more than two or three minutes prior to their scheduled shift start times,” the most recent complaint alleges.
The suits allege that shutting down the Harte-Hanks computer systems or ending an ongoing call meant employees were working without pay at the end of their shifts as well. New work was often assigned during the employees’ lunch hours and, “in order to handle the work assigned during the unpaid lunch times, plaintiffs were required to remain at their computers before clocking in and receiving pay.”
Since the filing of the class action suit last July, numerous current and former Harte-Hanks employees have joined the case as plaintiffs. Recently U.S. District Judge Robert Schroeder III declined to allow additional plaintiffs to join the class action because the deadline for doing so had passed. Not long after Schroeder’s denial to join the additional plaintiffs in the original case, the Sanford firm filed the new suit on behalf of the five additional plaintiffs.
Both suits seek actual damages meant to compensate for unpaid earnings as well as punitive damages meant to deter Harte-Hanks from engaging in similar conduct in the future. The suits also ask that Harte-Hanks be required to pay attorney fees and court costs.
Both cases are pending before Schroeder in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas federal court.