Comcast contractor to pay $7.5 million to settle lawsuit over unpaid overtime, labor law violations
Cable tech contractor O.C. Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. have agreed to settle a lawsuit claiming that they didn’t pay overtime or allow for meal breaks to 4,500 techs, court records show. One tech said he was scheduled for 32 stops without a break.
O.C. Communications Inc., tech talent supplier for Comcast Corp., says on its website that “a company is only as good as its employees, and at OCC, we train ours to be the best.”
Court documents tell a different story: Some techs weren’t paid overtime, many were denied meal breaks in violation of state law, and others had to buy their own tools.
That’s according to a federal class-action lawsuit in San Francisco that named the California firm and Comcast. The two agreed to settle the case after extensive litigation, including the production of 1.5 million documents.
O.C. Communications could not be reached for comment. The settlement agreement says that it will pay the $7.5 million. Comcast had no comment on Wednesday. Both denied wrongdoing.
Desidero Soto, of Concord, Calif., and one of the lead plaintiffs, said that O.C. Communications scheduled him for 32 job stops one day, though typically he was assigned eight.
“I was directed by my supervisor to work through meal periods, regardless of what I was required to write on my time sheets,” Soto told the court. “Any time I took to eat would typically take place while I was driving from one job to another and even then, I was required to have my cellular telephone on me at all times and be available to respond to any work calls.”
Jacky Charles, a Margate, Fla., tech with the firm between September 2016 and May 2017, said he had to buy his own wireless drill, drill bits, pliers, screwdriver, staple gun, and “several types of cable, boots and pants.”
Hundreds of other techs also wrote with similar tales to the court.
O.C. Communications and Comcast agreed on March 1 to settle the lawsuit that could result in about 4,500 techs splitting the $7.5 million after legal fees, court records show.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers believed that they could show in court that the techs hadn’t been paid 2.5 hours a day, hours worked off-the-clock. Lawyers for Soto and the other plaintiffs calculated that Comcast and O.C. Communications’ total exposure was $43.6 million, including penalties, in a trial.
The suit, filed in January 2017, claimed that the companies violated state and federal laws, such as not paying people for all the hours they worked and failure to compensate the techs for piecework, overtime or minimum wages.
According to the allegations in the suit, Comcast controlled about 90 percent of O.C. Communications’ revenue stream and “monitors and evaluates technicians’ work activities, work progress and whereabouts in real time during the course of the day through mobile devices.” In addition, “contacts and correspondence between [O.C. Communications] and Comcast reveal that the technicians appear to be fully integrated into Comcast’s business,” the suit claimed.
O.C. Communications also listed on its website Cox, Time Warner Cable, the U.S. Air Force, and California community colleges as clients. It was responsible for payrolls and employed the contractor techs.
Philadelphia firm Berger Montague represented the techs with Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky Wotkyns of Emeryville, Calif. Sarah R. Schalman-Bergen, a lawyer for Berger & Montague, had no comment other than to say that the case had been resolved.
In reaching the settlement, plaintiffs considered the risk that O.C. Communications wouldn’t have the resources to pay a significant portion of damages, and that the court could decline to find Comcast liable as a joint employer, court records show. O.C. Communications is based in Elk Grove, Calif, and has operations in Washington, Nevada and Florida, according to its website and court records.
O.C. Communications instructed Charles to underreport his hours for compensation, the Margate, Fla., tech told the court.
“OCC required me to write that my beginning time was typically an hour after I actually started working, and OCC typically required me to write that I stopped working several hours before I typically stopped working,” Charles wrote. “If I did not underreport my time as instructed, OCC would manipulate my time cards to reduce my total work time.”