Cases & Deals

IBM decertifies class of call center employees in Fair Labor Standards Act collective action

Client(s) International Business Machines Corporation

On behalf of International Business Machines Corporation, Jones Day successfully moved for decertification of a class of call center employees in a Fair Labor Standards Act collective action.

Plaintiff claimed under the FLSA that he and other call center employees were not paid overtime for time spent booting up their computers prior to the start of their shifts. Plaintiff initially asserted claims on behalf of a nationwide class of IBM call center employees, but ultimately limited his proposed class to workers at a single call center in Atlanta, Georgia. The court conditionally certified the class, after which IBM moved to decertify the class and dismiss the opt-in plaintiffs.

The court granted IBM's decertification motion, finding that Plaintiff could not demonstrate a "pervasive . . . policy requiring off-the-clock work given the many differences in specific job duties, team functions and structures, managerial expectations, and individual experiences and understandings among the plaintiffs." The court specifically noted that "IBM's formal employment policies require that employees be compensated for overtime work, including for time spent logging into computers before the store of their shifts," and that "IBM's timekeeping system and formal overtime policies are legal" as call center employees "had the ability to enter overtime exceptions . . . to be submitted for management approval."

The court further concluded that IBM's individualized defenses were "highly fact specific" and "will depend on the testimony of individual plaintiffs and managers and on individualized badge swipe data." The court was likewise persuaded by the fact that call center employees not only had "varying functions and duties," but "that expectations and practices of individual IBM managers varied from team to team and there was no uniform expectation that [call center employees] perform work to make themselves call ready before the start of their scheduled shifts." The court concluded that "overall, fairness requires that this collective action be decertified given the various individualized issues presented in the case."

Charles Seward v. International Business Machines Corp., Case No. 08 CV 3976 (VB) (PED) (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 20, 2012), objections overruled, 2012 WL 860363 (S.D.N.Y. March 9, 2012)