When Vernon Carre joined Computer Sciences Corp. in 2009 as a systems administrator, his assumption was it would be a standard, 40-hour-a-week position. It wasn’t until he was months into the job that his manager brought up his required “on-call” week.
For one week every two months, he would have to be on call 24 hours a day for the entire week, able to log into the network to address a customer’s problem within 15 minutes. He never received a dollar of overtime pay, he says.
“I basically said goodbye to my friends and got all the groceries I needed for the week,” said Carre, now 68, who left the company in 2014 after he was diagnosed with cancer. “You couldn’t walk more than 15 minutes away from your computer.”
This week Carre and a group of colleagues won a favorable ruling in a hard-fought class-action lawsuit against CSC, the large IT contractor now called DXC Technology. A jury concluded Wednesday that the firm knowingly underpaid more than 1,000 workers, wrongly denying them overtime pay.
The case was filed in 2014 in U.S. District Court in Connecticut and went to trial Dec. 7. Attorneys involved in the trial said the proceeding lasted two weeks and concluded Wednesday in a unanimous vote. The amount of money that is to be paid out to employees is still to be determined.
DXC Technology spokesman Rich Adamonis said the company plans to appeal the decision.
At issue in the case is whether certain employees in the role of “systems administrator” — who are responsible for the day-to-day work of overseeing and troubleshooting IT systems — are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA requires employers to pay their employees overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a given week.
Certain salaried professionals are exempt from the law’s overtime provisions, allowing companies to waive the requirements in some cases. DXC had argued that systems administrators fell under this exempt category.
DXC’s predecessor Computer Sciences Corp. paid $24 million to settle a similar lawsuit in 2005. More recently, the company has been going through a transition that broke it up into two separate publicly-traded corporations, one of which merged with a unit of Hewlett-Packard to form what is now DXC Technology.
Attorneys representing the IT workers in this week’s case said they hoped the jury’s decision would prompt other employers to look more closely at how workers are paid.
“What this ruling tells companies is if they decide to fight these lawsuits, they can lose them in front of a jury,” said Todd Jackson, an attorney at the law firm Feinberg Jackson Worthman and Wasow, who helped bring the class-action suit against the company. “Every technology company should wake up this morning and say ‘do we have a group of workers who are misclassified and should have been paid overtime all along?’ ”