Alaska Communications Hit With National Class Action Company Disregards the Alaska Labor Department’s Findings of Overtime Violations

Posted April 30th, 2012.

Complaint Details Egregious and Ongoing Violations of Overtime Pay Requirements under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and Alaska’s Wage and Hour Act

For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, 201-493-2017,

(April 30, 2012, Anchorage, AK) – Attorneys from Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP in San Francisco and Lee Holen Law Office in Anchorage today filed a class and collective action complaint in U.S. District Court in Anchorage against Alaska Communications Systems Group, Inc., and Alaska Communications Systems Holdings, Inc., (Alaska Communications) on behalf of former employee Laura Lee Peterson and all other similarly situated sales and marketing employees. The complaint details Alaska Communications’ serious and longstanding violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Alaska Wage and Hour Act (AWHA).

“Alaska Communications is one of the state’s largest telecommunications companies, which has systematically denied its sales and marketing employees basic overtime pay required under federal and state law, while racking up more than $125 million in operating profit last year alone,” said Janette Wipper, a partner at Sanford Wittels & Heisler and a lead lawyer for Peterson and the class. “Alaska Communications willfully continues to retain the overtime wages owed to these employees despite the Alaska Department of Labor’s unambiguous finding that Ms. Peterson was entitled to overtime pay.”

Peterson, a resident of Anchorage, worked for Alaska Communications for almost eight years, from 2003 until mid-2011, first as a market analyst, and later in sales positions of Business Development Manager and Senior Manager of Carrier Sales. During her entire period of employment, the company deprived her of overtime pay by misclassifying her as an exempt employee. During typical workweeks at Alaska Communications, she worked more than 60 hours, without any overtime compensation.

“Federal and state overtime laws were designed, in part, to serve the compelling societal goal of reducing unemployment by giving employers a disincentive to concentrate work in a few overburdened hands and an incentive to instead hire additional employees.” said Chaya Mandelbaum of Sanford Wittels & Heisler. “In today’s economic climate, the importance of insuring that big companies like Alaska Communications are not able to avoid the incentive to hire by illegally requiring their employees to work overtime hours without pay cannot be overstated. It’s a lose-lose situation for its employees and the Alaska workforce.”

After reviewing Peterson’s overtime wage claim, in November 2011 the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development determined that she was not an exempt employee of Alaska Communications and was entitled to unpaid overtime compensation and liquidated damages; however, the company has refused to abide by that determination.

Peterson’s complaint asserts federal overtime claims on behalf of all Alaska Communications employees who worked in a sales or marketing position below the level of Vice President anywhere in the United States from April 30, 2009 until the date of judgment. In addition, she is seeking to recover overtime wages under Alaska’s state law for herself and a class of Alaska Communications sales and marketing employees who have worked for the company in Alaska at any time between April 30, 2010 and the date of judgment.

A jury trial was requested.

About Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP

Sanford Wittels & Heisler LLP, a law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco, specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, qui tam and consumer actions and complex corporate class action litigation. The firm has represented thousands of individuals in major class action cases in the United States. In addition, the firm also represents individual clients in employment, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower, public accommodations, commercial, medical malpractice, and personal injury matters. In May 2010, the firm won the largest jury award in the U.S. in a gender discrimination employment class action when a jury returned a verdict of $253 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. On January 25, 2012, SWH won preliminary court approval to settle a wage and hour case on behalf of sales reps employed by Novartis Pharmaceuticals for $99 million. For more information, contact Sanford Wittels & Heisler at (646) 681-7373.