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Bluestem Brands & Blair Accused Of Call Center Wage Violations

A Pennsylvania call center has come under fire over countless alleged wage and hour violations. In her new class action lawsuit, a former call center representative accuses Bluestem Brands, parent organization to more than a dozen eCommerce stores, for failing to pay its employees properly – in violation of federal and state law.

Bluestem Brands Hit With Call Center Class Action

The lawsuit, currently seeking certification as a class action, was filed on November 18, 2016, in the US District Court for Minnesota. In the complaint, a former call center sales agent for Blair, one of Bluestem’s subsidiary brands, accuses her employers of violating federal and state law by withholding straight-time and overtime wages earned for “off-the-clock” work.

These wage violations, however, were not limited to a single employee, the class action contends. Far from it. The worker alleges that Bluestem and Blair established a company policy under which numerous other call center representatives were improperly paid for performing necessary pre- and post-shift tasks. While she, and other sales agents, were required to come in before shifts to boot up their computers and log into necessary programs, workers were routinely denied compensation for this time. The companies also failed to pay for crucial work performed after clock-out, the worker claims. When agents were required to resolve customer calls after the end of a shift, the employees says, these minutes often went uncompensated as well.

The lawsuit’s Plaintiff is represented by the experienced wage and hour lawyers of WageAdvocates.com. To learn more about the call center worker’s complaint, feel free to contact our attorneys today.

What Is Bluestem Brands?

Bluestem Brands is the parent company to 16 different eCommerce retail brands, including Blair, a provider of apparel, accessories, home decor and furnishings. As part of its sales operation, Blair runs two call centers, according to the employee’s complaint, one in Warren, Pennsylvania and another in nearby Erie, Pennsylvania. Bluestem itself is headquartered in Minnesota, the lawsuit reads. Bluestem also operates “2.61 million square feet of distribution space” in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Call Center Sales Agents

The employee worked as a Telephone Sales Agent for Blair, one of Bluestem’s many eCommerce brands, in Erie, Pennsylvania. She worked at the company from July of 2013 to June of 2016, answering customer calls and placing orders for Blair products, along with products in the Orchard Brands line. However, the company’s pay policies, along with those of Bluestem itself, routinely violated the legal rights of call center employees, the worker claims.

In her lawsuit, the call center worker makes clear that she intends to hold both parent company Bluestem and its subsidiary accountable for alleged wage and hour violations. Court documents argue that Blair and Bluestem should be considered “joint employers,” under federal and Minnesota law.

Failure To Pay For Off-The-Clock Work, Sales Agent Says

While at Blair, the woman writes, she was employed to work full-time, 40 hours per week, as were the companies’ other sales agents. Pre- and post-shift work, though, regularly bumped their hours over 40 – the federal threshold for overtime pay. While the federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires that employees be compensated for “necessary” work performed before and after a scheduled shift, the worker says she never saw a dime for completing her own pre- and post-shift tasks. As a result, the employee claims that she was often deprived, not only of the straight-time pay she was owed, but the overtime wages to which she was legally entitled as well.

As she writes in the lawsuit:

“Whether [her] total workweek hours were forty or in excess of forty, [she] was regularly required to work a substantial amount of time off-the-clock as part of her job as an Telephone Sales Agent. The off-the-clock tasks varied, and [she] was never compensated for this time.”

In her complaint, the worker says that Bluestem and Blair required sales representatives to perform significant amounts of work before clocking in. After the formal end of a shift, workers were often made to finish up customer calls. These pre- and post-shift minutes, however, were never compensated, the employee claims.

Accused Of Pre- & Post-Shift Violations

Employees were forced to come in before the start of a shift, she says, in order to boot up their computers and then launch and log into multiple programs, including Sharepoint, email and Skype. Only after these pre-shift tasks were complete could the employees clock-in and begin working on-the-clock. In total, the pre-shift work took up around 10 minutes every day, but the employee accuses her employers of never paying for that time.

Work performed after the end of a scheduled shift was also a problem, the employee claims. Employees at the call center were required to accept customer calls at, or very near, the “technical end time of their shifts,” the complaint says. More importantly, representatives were required to finish these “last-minute” customer calls, no matter how long they took. When a call lasted seven minutes or less after the end of a shift, the Plaintiff writes, Bluestem and Blair would not count those minutes toward the agent’s compensation. On average, the worker estimates that she lost out on between 25 minutes and 35 minutes of wages to this company policy every week.

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