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Firm agrees to $14.75 million settlement

March 02, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - ICT Group, an international telemarketing firm that has operated call centers at several locations in the Eastern Panhandle, has agreed to pay more than $14 million to settle a class action lawsuit that alleged that it failed to pay its employees wages due to them, according to attorneys representing the workers.

The company denied any wrongdoing.

The suit was filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court in October 1998. The lead plaintiff was William Shingleton, who was employed as a telemarketer at ICT's call center in Martinsburg, Martinsburg attorneys David Hammer and Barry Beck said in a news release.

ICT's call center in Martinsburg used to be in the Berkeley Plaza along U.S. 11 north but has since moved to Kearneysville, W.Va., in Jefferson County, Beck said.

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Shingleton alleged in the suit that ICT routinely failed to pay him and other employees for all their work time, according to the release.

It was alleged that ICT intentionally deleted or withheld time from its employees by manipulating the company's computerized time-keeping systems in violation of state law, the release said.

The two sides agreed to settle the case rather than go to trial, Beck said. ICT has agreed to pay $14.75 million in the settlement, the release said.

ICT acknowledged the settlement in a statement posted on its Web site.

The company said it will pay the $14.75 million to the plaintiffs "without admitting liability or wrongdoing."

John J. Brennan, chairman and chief executive officer of ICT Group, said in the statement that the decision to settle the case "was a difficult one."

Brennan said that "while we continue to dispute the plaintiff's allegations, we believe that the settlement is the best course of action and are pleased to put this matter behind us in order to focus on the growth and expansion of ICT Group."

The settlement is subject to a court approval at a hearing before Berkeley County Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes on June 27. If there are no objections to the settlement, distribution of the settlement proceeds can begin after that hearing, the release said.

The Wage Payment Act requires employers to pay current employees' wages in full each pay period and pay all wages due to any former employees within certain specified times after a worker leaves a place of employment, the release said.

Roughly 12,000 ICT employees will be eligible for a share of the money from the settlement, Beck said Tuesday.

Lawyers for the workers say a direct mailing will be sent to class members whose addresses are known to notify them of the settlement.

Advertisements detailing the agreement will be placed in newspapers where the ICT employees worked. Phone numbers will be placed in the ads which employees can use to get information, Beck said.

Beck said the amount of money to which employees will be entitled will vary. "Some people worked there a long time, some people worked very little," Beck said.

The ICT call center in Falling Waters was in a business park near the Spring Mills development, but it closed several years ago, an ICT spokesperson, who declined to give his name, confirmed Tuesday.

Beck said he did not know how many people work at the Kearneysville call center.

ICT, which has headquarters in Newtown, Pa., also has operated call centers in Westover, W.Va. and Parkersburg, W.Va.

The telemarketers who work for ICT sell a variety of items, including insurance and credit cards, Beck said.

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