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California call center workers: Common ways California call center companies don't pay wages and/or owe wage penalties

Call center employees work long hours in stressful positions, and companies often have massive teams of customer service reps to serve people over the phone.

Unfortunately, call centers are a common place where companies attempt to not pay wages owed under California's strict wage laws. While wage violations may occur accidentally or intentionally, the effect is that employees do not receive the full amount of pay that they have earned.

Based upon what we have seen, California call center regularly violate California's strict wage laws.  You may entitled to significant money for unpaid wages and penalties. 

Call center employees are oftentimes timed for everything 

Based upon what we have seen, many call centers time their employees for everything. Meaning, that you are being judged, watched and measured by how much time you are on the phone with customers. Either taking calls and/or making calls. Employees have to indicate when they are and are not available to make/ take calls. 

Because of this emphasis on time/ productivity, call center companies control what you do, down to the minute. This control oftentimes both leads to California wage law violations and making it easy to prove unpaid wage violations. 

Not getting paid for all time worked

For example, I was talking to a call center employee this week who said that he was expected to be at his cubicle, ready to take calls at 7 a.m. sharp.  And he wasn't allowed to clock in until 7 a.m. Thus, the call center employees would arrive at work early, in order to go to the break room, and organize their worker area so they were ready for their first call at 7 a.m. sharp.  

He explained how he and all of his co-employees at the call center would badge through at security, take the elevator to the floor, take their lunch to the break room, get coffee, and then organize their desk - all before they clocked in. This all would take a minimum of 5 minutes. He did all this in 10 minutes. And he would then clock out at the end of the shift and then organize his work area and then leave. At least, another 5 minutes.  For all of this time the call center employees are under the control of the company and they must be paid for all this time. 

So, if you want to find out how you may be entitled to A LOT of money for unpaid wages and/or penalties under California Labor CodeCalifornia Wage Orders and/or California's PAGA laws; I suggest that you keep reading. 


California call center employees - not getting paid overtime, for all time I work, meal breaks, rest breaks, final wages

Getting a settlement check for unpaid wages!


In this article I answer the following questions and address the following issues concerning California call center employee unpaid wage claims:

How are California call center employees not paid for all time that they work?
How do California employers deny fair pay to call center employees? 
What are off-the-clock work laws for California call center workers?
What does it mean to be under the control of the company?
What are meal break laws for California call center employees?
What are rest break laws for California call center employees? 
Should I be paid for meetings and training?
What is misclassification for call center employees?
What are overtime laws for California call center workers? 
What records are call center companies in California supposed to keep?
What are pay stub violations for call center employees?

What waiting time penalties can I get as a California center employees?


Why is Bill Turley asked to testify concerning wage law legislation at the California State Senate and the California Assembly?

Bill Turley - Testifying California State Senate and California Assembly on wage legislation

A No B.S. straight-shooter lawyer

Believe it or not, Bill is known for being a no B.S. straight-up lawyer. Besides being known as one of the leading experts on this area of the law in California, one of the reasons why Bill is asked to testify at legislature hearings is because he is known for being straight-forward and blunt. He is known for being no B.S., with no lawyer-talk, no double-talk.

How Employers Deny Fair Pay to Workers in Call Centers 

When employers break state and federal wage laws, employees have the right to file lawsuits against their employers to recover the full amount of back pay. These laws also have requirements on how long an employer has to issue wages to an employee. If a company fails to issue full and timely payments, the employer may be required to pay a penalty for each day that the employee is made to wait for wages.

Call center employees may suffer a variety of California wage and hour violations, including:

  • Off-the-clock work. Employers have recently come under fire for forcing their customer service representatives to perform unpaid work at the beginning and end of their shifts. Some companies require call center employees to be ready to take their first calls at the exact moment their shift begins, requiring them to perform pre-work tasks (such as going through security checks, turning on computers, logging on, walking from the front door to where you clock in, reading emails, reviewing customer service directives, or logging into call software programs) without pay. If the representative stays at work after her shift ends to perform work-related tasks (such as helping a customer, making post-call notes, writing emails, or assisting a coworker), she has a right to be paid for this time. In some cases, failure to pay for all hours worked causes the employee’s hourly rate to fall below minimum wage.

Under the recent California Troester Supreme Court case, employers must pay for all time worked. Even 1-2 minutes a day of unpaid work must be paid for by the employer. 

Many people might think that it isn't worth it to file a California wage claim over 1-2 minutes a day. However, California has strict wage laws. When you factor in pay stub violations (up to $4,000 per employee) and waiting time penalties (which can exceed $5,000 for some call center employees) - you will see that the wages owed quickly add up. Especially if a California wage class action and/or PAGA case is filed for all the workers. 

Under the control of the company.  Under California law, anytime you are under the control of the company, you have to be paid for that time. Even if you aren't actually "working." California law is much stricter than federal law. Thus, under California law, you have to be paid for the time it takes from the time you enter the building up until you actually clock in. Including walking time. 


  • Not receiving legal meal breaks. Call center employees’ movements are often controlled and tracked by company software. Employers may take advantage of these systems to automatically clock workers out for their lunch breaks, regardless of whether the employee was still assisting a customer on the phone during that time. Workers who were also given assignments or mandatory work to complete in a short timeframe were forced to work during lunch and breaks, denying them pay for these tasks.

Under the landmark Brinker California Supreme Court case - employers often breach their duty to provide meal breaks. Employees often think they are getting legal meal breaks, when in fact, they aren't.  You are entitled to a hour's pay every time that you are provided a legal meal break in California. 

I know the Brinker case really well because I represented the workers in the Brinker case. 


  •  Not receiving legal rest breaks. Call center employees are often timed for everything. Including how long they are on breaks. Under California law, you must be provided a net 10 minutes at a suitable resting facility.  Part of your break can't be spent going to and from the break room. This all comes from the Augustus California Supreme Court case. 

What California call center employees need to understand is just because you got a rest break, doesn't mean that the rest break complied with California's strict laws as stated in the Augustus case. 

I know the Augustus case well because I wrote the winning brief in the Augustus case. 

You are entitled to an hour's pay every time you don't receive a legal rest break. 


  • Meetings and training. Employees often report being required to attend work-related meetings or participate in training sessions before or after work, or even on days off, without additional pay.


  • Misclassification. Misclassifying employees as overtime-exempt is a common way for companies to steal wages from workers. Companies may also falsely classify employers as independent contractors, denying them the right to overtime or minimum wage as well as the protection of state and federal labor laws.


  • Unpaid overtime. Although most of these companies can easily afford to pay employees what they earn, many deprive employees of small amounts of pay every day that add up to thousands of dollars. Working an extra 10 to 15 minutes a day without pay equals about an hour per week of time donated to the employer, both in wages and in counting toward overtime pay.  Under the Troester California Supreme Court case, even 1-2 minutes a day of unpaid work time must be paid by the company. 

Under California overtime law, covered nonexempt employees are entitled to receive overtime compensation of time-and-a-half for all hours worked over 8 hours a day and over 40 hours in a single work week. California Labor Code Section 510


  • Failure to keep accurate records. California wage law also requires employers to keep accurate records concerning all employees’ hours worked and rates of pay. Poor recordkeeping forms the basis for many unpaid overtime lawsuits, especially if the employer knowingly manipulated these records or withheld information from an employee’s pay stubs.

Under the California wage law, employers who engage in negligent recordkeeping practices may be liable to repay several years of back wages, as well as attorney’s fees, court costs, and penalties equal to the amount of unpaid wages.


  •  Pay stub violations.  California law recognizes that the way that you can uncover wage theft is by making companies provide accurate paycheck stubs to employees. California has strict pay stub laws. California Labor code Section 226.  

You may be entitled to up to $4,000 penalties for the employers failure to provide legal pay stubs. Thus, if the employer violates any of the California wage laws that are discussed on this webpage, then the employer has not provided legally compliant pay stubs


  •  Waiting time penalties. Under California law, if your employer doesn't timely pay you wages at time of termination - then you are entitled to up to 30 days pay for the non-payment of wages. California Labor Code Section 203. Thus, if the employer violates any of the California wage laws that are discussed on this webpage, you entitled to waiting time penalties. 

Questions or if you need help right now?

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This article isn't legal advice
These discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. These testimonials, endorsements, photos and/or discussions do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation. Every case is different. There are any number of reasons why class actions are not certified, not won and/or PAGA actions are not successful.
Just because we have gotten great results in so many other unpaid wage cases, doesn't guarantee in particular result in other cases. Including, your wage case. Every case is different. In other words, your mileage may vary.
William Turley
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“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”