MANCHESTER — A former employee of the Vermont Country Store has initiated a class action lawsuit claiming the company violates federal labor practices.
Rutland-based attorney Christopher Larson filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of Doreen Forauer, who, according to the lawsuit, worked as a customer service representative at the company’s call center in Manchester from 2004 until 2012.
The lawsuit alleges the Vermont Country Store “knowingly required Plaintiff Forauer and similarly situated individuals to perform unpaid work before their shifts.”
Such off-the-clock tasks included turning on and logging onto a computer; initializing software programs and opening the company’s website; and reviewing work-related email and Internet messages.
According to the lawsuit, the company has policies in place that would negatively affect the performance scores of an employee who was not ready to take a phone call at the start of a shift.
The lawsuit alleges the company also forced Forauer to work during her break or after her shift, performing tasks ranging from reviewing the work schedule and requesting changes; documenting daily activities and turning off the computer.
According to the lawsuit, the store’s alleged policies forced Forauer and others work between 20 minutes and 30 minutes every day without pay.
Reached by phone, Chris Vickers, president and CEO of the Vermont Country Store, rejected the allegations in the lawsuit.
“It’s without merit,” Vickers said. “Our policies are clear that we don’t want work done off the clock.”
He denied an allegation in the lawsuit claiming the company does not have a policy or procedure in place where Forauer or others could be paid for their work before or after a shift.
Vickers said the company does in fact have such a policy, under which an employee can be paid for work done off the clock. Moreover, he said, Forauer had followed this policy many times.
The alleged practices would violate the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum-wage requirements by “regularly and repeatedly failing to compensate Plaintiff Forauer and similarly situated individuals for time spent on work activities as described in this Complaint,” the lawsuit says.
Forauer is seeking unpaid back wages with interest and attorney’s fees.
Forauer might not be the only person to sue the Vermont Country Store over alleged illegal labor practices; her attorney has sent notice to hundreds of current and former customer service and telemarketing sales representatives to see if they want to join Forauer in a class action lawsuit.
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