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Qwest suit may win class status
If enough call-center workers sign on, the suit over overtime pay will get class-action certification.
By Andy Vuong, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Tuesday, August 7, 2007


A federal judge in Minnesota has granted conditional class-action certification to a lawsuit that alleges Qwest failed to pay its call-center employees for overtime work.

U.S. District Judge Michael Davis wrote in an order, issued July 27, that the plaintiffs established a basis that they are victims of a single, nationwide policy by Qwest to illegally withhold overtime pay.

According to the suit, Qwest pays its call-center employees based on the time they are logged in to their computer phone systems and doesn't track or pay employees for work performed when they're not logged in.

"We will vigorously defend ourselves in this matter but will not comment on the particulars," Qwest spokesman Bob Toevs said Monday.

The lead plaintiff is Oakdale, Minn., resident Felicia Burch, a current Qwest call-center employee who has worked for the company since December 2003.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs say more than 8,000 current and former Qwest call-center workers across 13 states may be affected, including in Colorado.

In granting the conditional class status, Davis ordered Denver-based Qwest to turn over contact information for current and former call-center employees dating back to Aug. 30, 2003.  Attorneys for the plaintiffs will then mail information to those workers so they can opt in to the suit if they believe they have been affected.

In order to win final class certification, the response to the opt-in effort has to be significant, said lead plaintiff attorney Jim Kaster.

"If this claim is as meritorious as what we've been led to believe so far, then I would expect to see the sign-up rates (reach a) thousand or more," said Kaster, an attorney with Nichols Kaster & Anderson in Minneapolis.

Forty current and former employees from eight Qwest call-center locations have already filed consent forms to join the suit, including five from Colorado, Kaster said.

Staff writer Andy Vuong can be reached at 303-954-1209 or avuong@denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_6559497