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4 PSEG customer service reps sue utility over homework, study

The first fleet of PSEG logo service trucks

The first fleet of PSEG logo service trucks come out from the service yard to begin work under the new utility at National Grid in Hicksville on Jan. 1, 2014. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

PSEG Long Island required customer service agents in training to complete large amounts of uncompensated study and homework outside the office to pass required exams in violation of state federal laws, a recently filed federal lawsuit claims.

Four PSEG service reps filed the suit, and their lawyer is attempting to make it a class action applying to all who underwent the PSEG training but weren’t compensated for time spent doing required homework and study.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, seeks at least tens of thousands of dollars in overtime for each of the employees and others who underwent the training, plus attorney fees, interest and other costs.

The suit alleges that by requiring employees to do extensive amounts of homework to digest more than a thousand pages of customer service manuals, PSEG violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the New York Wage/Hour Law.

PSEG spokeswoman Brooke Houston said, “We cannot comment on the case because it is pending litigation.”

Speaking generally, she said, the company is “committed to excellence in customer service and to providing highly trained representatives to support our customers. We value our employees and ensure they are paid appropriately for all hours worked.”

The suit said employees during the first three months of their employment were required to complete four exams to remain employed by PSEG. Company trainers “constantly” told the women that the “only way to complete the training period was to study outside of scheduled work hours,” the suit said.

They were encouraged to form outside study groups, the suit said, and “even brought in ‘guest speakers’ from prior training periods to explain the amount of studying required to satisfactorily complete the training period,” nearly all of it outside of work hours.

The company also “routinely” assigned homework to the women that also “had to be completed outside scheduled work hours.”

They were not paid for the time spent studying and completing homework, the suit said, which “violated FLSA and the New York Wage Law,” and “justifies a collective action” under federal law to compensate any similarly situated workers.

The four named plaintiffs, Lisa Griffin of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Tiffany Burton of Bayside, Roselle Able of West Babylon, and Karen Renard of Wyandanch, applied for customer service jobs at PSEG in 2016 and 2017.

The suit says the women were given homework “almost immediately” after their training began, and the work was not simple. “Much of the homework required more-than-remedial mathematical calculations and review and understanding of terminology and jargon that would be indecipherable to anyone who just attempted the homework without any prior study or training,” the suit alleges.

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