AT&T tracked its own sales offices using GPS, secretly charged $135 a month to do so, lawsuit claims • The Register
AT&T monitors its representatives to make sure they meet deadlines and then charges them a fee, explains Daniel Gunther, one of its internal experts.
Gunter has sued the American television giant and hopes to bring a collective lawsuit against him in California, where he is based. He claims that the mobile phone network uses GPS in his cars to monitor employees in the field. He worries if they spend more than 45 minutes with the customer and comes to see them if they are suspected of using the car for personal reasons.
Worse, Gunter says AT&T charges him for the pleasure of surveillance: by deducting $85 to $135 a month from his salary for using the car, which Gunter says he never agreed to and never received any information about. He also claims to have regularly worked 40 hours a week as an essential part of his work, but AT&T refused to pay overtime because the national experts were classified as freelancers exempt from compulsory overtime in California.
Gunter is suing AT&T Mobility Services under the Fair Labour Standards Act and the Unfair Business Practices Act and claims [PDF] that the mega-company acted intentionally, with deliberate disregard and contempt for overtime hours due and late payment of wages, which include not providing meals and breaks and not paying wages to employees on termination of employment, misclassifying employees to avoid payment of wages, not providing adequate information on wages, and not keeping a legally required payroll record”.
He says it was his job to follow the sales of other AT&T representatives and try to increase sales; which, he explains, meant he spent most of his time going through the departments already purchased by customers rather than looking for new sales.
AT&T classifies its experts in the country of origin as exempt from VAT and reimburses them accordingly, with most of the tax in the country of origin (up to one third according to Gunter) being paid as a sales bonus. But he had to work at AT&T from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and drive an AT&T car strictly controlled by the GPS system.
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In fact, he didn’t like the job very much, especially because he was sued for using a car that followed every move, and he was pressured to move from appointment to appointment. The lack of overtime and the time spent on customer service for foreign sales – all this seems to go against Gunter’s wishes.
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According to the complaint, by encouraging defendant’s management to make customers more inclined to turn to the plaintiff for new sales, the plaintiff often went for days without selling.
Instead, it should provide existing customers with services such as on-site requests for products and services, processing customer and product complaints, rewriting and correcting wireless and cable TV set up technicians’ orders to resolve customer problems and complaints, assisting technicians in rewriting customer orders, changing the speed of the Internet at the customer’s request, changing TV set up units at the customer’s request, advising customers on how to reduce their monthly bill by
It all sounds a lot more like a regular customer service employee than a sales employee on leave, they say. Mr. Gunter says he was told to start at 8 a.m. and finish at 5 p.m., but given AT&T’s schedule, he was often unable to work several hours and therefore worked 12 to 15 hours a day, six days a week, for a basic salary of $48,000.
In California, strong pressure has been brought to bear on companies to end the classification of employees as independent contractors, and a new law against Uber and Lyft has recently been passed. While these arrangements are generally visible in the business economy, it can also be difficult for companies such as AT&T to claim that the people working for them are independent when they have to use their vehicles under constant supervision and spend most of their time supporting existing sales.
The AT&T press officer said: We pay our employees fairly and respect the law. We are and will fight these demands. ®
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