BOISE, Idaho – Customer service workers at a call centre for insurance exchanges established under the federal health care overhaul have sued their employer in federal court, saying they were forced to work unpaid overtime.
The nine workers at a Boise facility who brought the suit against Maximus Inc. say the case could potentially apply to thousands of employees, and they’re asking a judge to award damages exceeding $5 million.
Maximus, which operates under a government contract, has not yet filed a response. A phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday was not immediately returned.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Boise on Friday.
The workers say they were wrongly classified as exempt from overtime and required to work up to 60 hours a week, frequently missing lunches and breaks, in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
“An employer’s obligation to pay its employees overtime wages is more than a matter of private concern between the parties,” wrote attorney Howard Belodoff in the lawsuit.
He stated that “members of a modern, humane society are not simply indentured servants but are entitled to work a livable number of hours at a livable wage.”
The nine employees are all either trainers or first-level supervisors.
The lawsuit says the trainers are responsible for preparing new Maximus staffers to answer calls from around the country relating to the Affordable Care Act.
The first-level supervisors each monitor a team of about 14 employees, coaching them on customer service issues, checking timesheets and reporting problems to higher-level managers.
The workers say they have no real managerial powers and should have been classified as hourly workers and paid overtime.
Belodoff said after multiple complaints Maximus agreed to re-classify the workers at the Boise call centre as hourly, but that the company also reduced their wages and benefits and refused to pay the workers double damages for the lost overtime wages as required by federal law.
The workers say it’s difficult to determine just how much unpaid overtime they are owed because the company prevented them from filling out accurate time cards when they were classified as salaried workers.