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Lawsuit seeks overtime wages for ACS employees

Posted: May 1, 2012 - 12:02am  |  Updated: May 1, 2012 - 6:52am

ANCHORAGE — A class action complaint was filed Monday against Alaska Communication Systems Group alleging sales and marketing personnel were not paid overtime.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a former employee, Laura Lee Peterson of Anchorage, and others who are in similar positions at the wireless and broadband company, which is one of Alaska’s largest employers with 855 employees.

Peterson’s lawsuit alleges ACS “systemically denied the class of sales and marketing employees suing here basic overtime pay mandated” by the Fair Labor Standards Act and Alaska Wage and Hour Act by classifying them as salaried employees.

“In furtherance of its scheme, despite illegally paying the employee on a salary basis, Alaska Communications still forces its sales and marketing employees to complete false time sheets indicating that they do not work overtime hours,” it says.

ACS spokeswoman Heather Cavanaugh said the company has not been served with a lawsuit.

“Alaska Communications regularly monitors its employment practices. We abide by state and federal employment laws, value our team members and are committed to creating a healthy, positive work environment,” she said in an email to The Associated Press.

After repeatedly asking the company to change her employee classification, the lawsuit says, Peterson filed a complaint with the Alaska Department of Labor. The state agency on Nov. 1 sided with Peterson, according to the lawsuit.

The state labor department said Peterson was entitled to more than $100,000 in overtime back wages and an equal amount in damages, the lawsuit says.

However, a document obtained by the AP shows that on Jan. 10, the state closed its investigation of the matter, and reassigned all rights in the case back to Peterson.

One of Peterson’s San Francisco-based lawyers, Chaya Mandlebaum, said ACS didn’t respond to the state’s decision in Peterson’s favor. The only recourse was to take the case to small claims court, which wouldn’t have jurisdiction in this case because of the higher amount, and the state left it to Peterson to legally pursue as she wished.

Leonard Steinberg, an attorney for ACS, countered that the Nov. 1 letter from the state was based solely on information provided by Peterson to them. He said ACS later provided investigators with additional information, in some cases clarifying or correcting Peterson’s data.

Steinberg said in response to ACS’ follow-up, it appears the state seemingly decided to close the case.

Another of Peterson’s lawyers, Janette Wipper, earlier estimated that nearly 100 employees could be part of the class action.

Most are based in Alaska, with a few workers in Hillsboro, Ore. Other potential class members include people who work out of their homes for ACS in Bend, Ore., Harrington Park, N.J., Denver and the Kansas City, Mo., metro area.

The class action would cover any employee who works or has worked as a full-time sales or marketing employee, below the level of vice president.

The lawsuit seeks compensation under the federal act going back three years, and two years under the state act.

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