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Techies sue Universal Media Group for overtime pay

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Unpaid overtime is a contentious issue for IT employees, who often wrangle with ill-tempered technology long after everyone else has punched the clock.

Universal Media Group is the latest company to stir the ire of data center dwellers feeling short-changed. A group of UMG IT employees has filed a class action lawsuit alleging the music label hasn't paid overtime as required by law. The complaint was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must pay at least 1.5 times regular pay if their employees work more than 40 hours in a work week. However, the rules make "white collar" exemptions for some executives, administrative, professional, and IT employees.

The department permits these exemptions for computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers, and other similarly-skilled workers in the computer field. Under California regulations, an exempt IT employee must primarily perform work that is "intellectual or creative and requires the exercise of discretion and independent judgment." In addition, the employee must earn over $41 per hour.

The UMG workers, who are employed as "IT Support Engineers," claim the company has illegally classified them as exempt to skip out of paying overtime. The employees are seeking back wages and civil penalties under California's Private Attorney Act. Under the Private Attorney Act, employees can sue an employer for fines based on labor law on behalf of the state of California. If successful, the employees will receive 25 per cent of fines rewarded, while California will receive the rest.

Representatives for Universal Media Group have not responded to inquires as of this writing.

The Law Offices of Michael Tracy, the firm representing the employees, claim that UMG may have distributed a release to assumed members of the lawsuit asking them to sign away their overtime rights. Tracy said it is illegal for a private citizen to compromise federal overtime claims without the support of the Department of Labor. In light of this, the group may issue additional charges against UMG in the future.

Tracy said the employees had previously filed the overtime complaint with California's Labor & Workforce Development Agency, but the organization refused to investigate. In response, the employees are suing for the labor fines.

IBM has also been hit by a second class action lawsuit alleging it has failed to pay overtime to sales workers. The complaint claims the employees regularly worked more than 40 hours per week as well as daily shifts exceeding eight hours, but were not paid overtime or received mandatory rest and meal breaks.

In 2006, IBM forked-over $65m in backdated overtime to settle a lawsuit from 32,000 IT workers. ®

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