DirecTV and its installation contractors will need to continue to defend itself against a pair of lawsuits brought in Chicago federal court by service technicians who claimed the satellite television provider owes them unpaid overtime.
On April 7, U.S. District Judge John W. Darrah issued a pair of nearly-identical opinions, rejecting attempts by DirecTV and contractors DirecSat USA and Multiband to dismiss two similar class action lawsuits brought under federal and state wage and hour laws.
In one case, former satellite television technician Ricardo Anaya and a class of other technicians who installed and repaired satellite TV systems for DirecTV through DirectSat claimed the companies violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, and the Illinois Employee Classification Act. The technicians claimed they are owed overtime pay.
The case was filed in March of 2015 and dismissed the following September for failure to state a claim. An amended claim was filed in October; on April 7, Darrah denied motions to dismiss the amended claim.
The other case, filed by former satellite TV technician Robert Hebron and others against DirecTV, DirectSat USA and Multiband Corp., made the same allegations, and also claimed the technicians’ pay fell below the minimum-wage level. Multiband, like DirectSat, is a contractor of DirecTV; in that case, some of the technicians’ claims were against DirectSat and some against Multiband. That suit was also filed in March 2015, was dismissed in part, and an amended claim was filed last November.
In this case, Darrah denied motions to dismiss the overtime claim, but granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the minimum wage claim. The plaintiffs were given 28 days to file an amended complaint.
According to court documents, DirecTV has two classifications of service technicians, both of which are represented in the two actions. Some technicians are employed directly by DirecTV, while others are contracted by service providers like DirectSat and are not directly employed by either company.
As contractors, technicians were required to buy uniforms with the DirecTV insignia and to display DirecTV insignia on vehicles driven to customers’ homes. The technicians also had to buy their own installation supplies and pay for gas and maintenance on their vehicles.
The technicians were paid on a “piece-rate payment scheme that is utilized throughout DirecTV’s network,” according to court documents. Under this system, technicians are paid on a per-task basis for specific tasks, but some tasks required by DirecTV policies and procedures were not compensated, including assembling satellite dishes, traveling to and from assignments, educating customers, finishing incomplete installations and performing additional work on completed installations that did not satisfy the customer, the lawsuits said.
According to the court documents, deductions were taken from the technicians’ pay if there were issues with an installation or questions from a customer. Issues that could result in a pay deduction purportedly included improper installation, a call from a customer needing assistance with using the remote control or a customer satisfaction rating of lower than 95 percent.
According to the plaintiffs, technicians routinely worked more than 40 hours per week without receiving overtime pay. The judge ruled the technicians can continue to litigate this allegation. In the Hebron case, the plaintiffs also argued that they were not paid minimum wage. But the judge dismissed that claim, saying that while the hourly rate may have occasionally dipped below the minimum level, the plaintiffs failed to show their effective wages fell below minimum wage during any given work week.
The service technician plaintiffs are represented in these actions by the firms of Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP, with offices in San Diego and Kansas City, Mo.; Werman Salas P.C., of Chicago; and Lear Werts LLP, of Columbia, Mo.
DirecTV and its contractors are represented by the firms of Littler Mendelson P.C., of Chicago; Butler, Rubin, Saltarelli & Boyd, of Chicago; Duane Morris LLP, of Chicago; and Fox Rothschild LLP, of Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Blue Bell, Pa.