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West files settlement over non-payment to Spokane call center workers

West Corp., which runs two large call centers in Spokane, has settled a class action suit filed on behalf of workers who said they were denied pay for 15 minutes of work at the start of each shift.

Without acknowledging wrongdoing, the Omaha-based company said it would pay varying amounts of compensation to about 2,000 current and former workers who handled customer calls at West’s downtown Holley Mason building.

West’s attorneys predicted the settlement will produce payments in the ballpark of $320,000.

Filed in U.S. District Court in 2010, the lawsuit said numerous Spokane West call center workers were not paid for those first 15 minutes stretching back to 2008.

The suit’s lead plaintiff, Spokane resident Leah Burnett, alleged the company did not begin paying her or others like her until they took their first customer service call.

In court documents Burnett said West first required her to spend about 15 minutes starting a number of computer programs that had to be used before handling calls.

Those software programs were specifically needed when dealing with customer questions for AT&T, one of West’s major customers.

The settlement resulted after the federal court ordered the two sides to work with a federal mediator.

It also has no bearing on several hundred other West employees who have worked at its Spokane Valley call center and who don’t handle calls for AT&T.

In accepting the settlement, West agreed to pay its downtown workers roughly the equivalent of 12 minutes for each shift worked during the time of the AT&T contract.

 The amount to be paid to workers varies with the number of shifts eligible employees worked between 2008 and 2010.

Most of West’s Spokane’s downtown workers were paid about $11 per hour.

Because she was the lead plaintiff, the 33-year-old Burnett will get an added $1,500. She no longer works for West.

A spokesman for West said the company would have no comment on the settlement. One of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Peter Cogan, based in Seattle, also had no comment.

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The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.