AT&T Employees’ Overtime Collective Action Trial Opens Today

Posted October 3rd, 2011.

Complaint Asserts Giant Telecom Misclassifies First-Level Managers in CT,

Requires Them to Work Up to 80 Hours Weekly, But Pays Them No Overtime

For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 646-791-4848, [email protected]

(October 3, 2011, Bridgeport, CT) – Does AT&T owe its First-Level “Managers” overtime pay when it requires them to work more than 40 hours a week?  That’s the question to be answered by the jury in a collective action trial opening this morning in Judge Janet C. Hall’s Bridgeport courtroom in the U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut. And the answer could run to $100 million.

“We will demonstrate to the Court that AT&T classifies First Levels as ‘managers’ simply as a way to avoid paying them overtime wages,” said Mr. Wittels. “These employees manage nothing and nobody. Why should one of the world’s richest companies be allowed to earn millions each year by cheating hard-working men and women of the overtime wages to which they are legally entitled? Either AT&T should hire more workers or pay its current employees for all the hours they are required to work.  It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the law.”

Some 200 of the First Levels employed by Southern New England Telephone Company (“SNET”), the Connecticut exchange carrier for AT&T, said the giant telecom’s company-wide policy misclassifies them as management employees exempt from overtime compensation. The collective action lawsuit asserts that the First Levels frequently are required to work more than 40 hours weekly – and sometimes as much as 80 hours – but are not compensated for their extra hours.

In addition, First Levels are required to be “on duty” – available to go into the field at any time, 24 hours a day — on a rotating schedule. When “on duty,” First Levels work between 20 to 70 hours more than their average schedule, with no additional compensation.

SNET’s First-Level Managers are represented in the matter by Sanford, Wittels and Heisler LLP (SWH) team of Steven Wittels, Sharon Eubanks and Jeremy Heisler along with Connecticut employment lawyer Edmond Clark, as well as SWH associates Deepika Bains, Deborah Marcuse, and Andrew Melzer.

AT&T had revenue in 2010 of over $120 billion. The eighth-largest corporation in the Fortune 500, it employs more than 294,600 workers. The company’s First Levels are foot soldiers in its multi-billion dollar international operations, performing mostly clerical duties, including relaying messages between ATT’s decision-making managers and the company’s field technicians.

The case, Sharon L. Perkins et al. v. Southern New England Telephone Company, asserts AT&T’s misclassification of First Levels as overtime-exempt executives violate both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and Connecticut wage laws.

Prior to today’s opening arguments, Judge Janet C. Hall ruled AT&T had illegally destroyed more than eight months of evidence favorable to the First Levels. She also ruled AT&T had to turn over to SWH more than 200 documents defense attorneys had claimed were privileged and improperly failed to disclose for more than eight months. In addition, Judge Hall ruled AT&T could not use an additional 2500 documents the company had failed to turn over in discovery.

SWH secured another victory in the case when Judge Hall ruled that if the First Levels prevail in the case, AT&T must pay overtime to its workers at the standard time and a half rate rather than the lower half time rate AT&T wanted to use.  The attorney team estimates the company will owe the Connecticut First Levels up to $100 million in back pay and damages.

SWH is representing AT&T employees in two related management misclassification suits pending in Georgia against Bell South and in California against Pac Bell.

In 2010 Sanford Wittels & Heisler won a $253 million award against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation in a class-action gender discrimination jury trial in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Sanford Wittels & Heisler is a law firm with offices in Washington, DC, New York, and San Francisco that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, consumer and complex corporate class action litigation and has represented thousands of individuals in some of the major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents individual clients in employment, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower, public accommodations, commercial, medical malpractice, and personal injury matters.