NEW ORLEANS (CN) - A defense contractor lured scores of computer technicians to work in war zones with false promises of competitive hourly pay, the aggrieved workers claim in court.
In a lawsuit filed in the New Orleans Federal Court, 66 computer technicians say they were hired by Computer Sciences Corporation in 2006 and afterwards, after the company received numerous contracts to provide services in Kuwait and Afghanistan to support the war effort.
Each of the plaintiffs says while they were being recruited by Computer Sciences Corporation, they were sent two standard letters: an offer letter, which allegedly stated they would be paid a salary of about $65,000, which amounts to less than $15 an hour, and a "foreign travel" letter, which described fringe benefits, including pay differential, a hardship allowance and danger pay of up to 35 percent.
"Employees were required to work 84 hours a week. The worksites were isolated and remote, the working conditions were harsh, the amenities were few, and the weather was extreme," the lawsuit says, adding, "Computer Sciences Corporation always had a turnover of employees and routinely recruited more replacements."
In 2009, the plaintiffs say, Computer Sciences Corporation changed its offer letter to make it appear more attractive.
The letter quoted an hourly rate that appeared to average about $32 an hour. In parenthesis following the quoted hourly rate was an "annualized amount," which was not called a salary and ranged between $66,000 and $69,000 a year, according to the complaint.
The annualized amount quoted in the offer letters was the hourly rate multiplied by 2080 (40 hours a week times 52 weeks a year) and was based on a 40 hour work week, despite that workers were expected to work 84 hours a week, the lawsuit says.
In 2010, Computer Sciences Corporation changed its form letter to delete any reference to an annualized amount. The letters quoted only an hourly rate that averaged $32 an hour, the lawsuit says.
Each of the 66 named plaintiffs signed a document in which they agreed to work for an average of $32 an hour.
"While CSC quoted an hourly rate, it never intended to pay that rate for all hours worked. Rather, it intended to breach the contract by paying a flat annualized amount based on a 40-hour workweek but still required the plaintiffs to work 84 hours a week," the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs claim that in the end, Computer Sciences Corporation effectively paid its employees approximately $15.23 an hour, even while their contracts specified they would receive $32 and never told its employees it was doing this.
Some of its employees figured out they were making only half of what they were promised, but by that time, "most employees were not in a position to do much about their situation. They had already quit their other jobs and were essentially stranded in a remote location," the lawsuit says.
Based on a previous ruling on the same matter in the Richmond, Va. Federal Court, Computer Sciences Corporation is barred from denying that it breached its employees' contracts, the lawsuit says.
In that ruling, which was handed down last December, Computer Sciences Corporation was ordered to pay more than $350,000 in back wages to five former employees.
The plaintiffs seek back pay, attorneys fees and penalties.
They are represented by Wanda Davis of Leefe Gibbs Sullivan & Dupre of Metairie, La.
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