Detroit Quicken says it doesn't owe OT as trial opens Verdict against the company could cost millions of dollars

By Ed White

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Quicken Loans employees were highly trained sales agents who deserve overtime after "pounding the phones" 60 to 70 hours per week at the online mortgage giant, a lawyer told jurors Tuesday.

A trial in Detroit will determine whether more than 300 people at Michigan and Ohio call centers qualified for overtime under federal law, from spring 2002 through summer 2006. Quicken Loans calls them "mortgage bankers" who advised people about their finances and recommended certain loan programs.

A verdict against the company could cost millions of dollars. Company founder and chairman Dan Gilbert, who owns the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, was in the federal courtroom, often passing notes to his legal team during opening statements.

An attorney for the former employees, Paul Lukas, displayed e-mails to the jury to show that Quicken Loans repeatedly referred to its "sales" teams. He explained how the workers sat at computers, made phone calls and tried to get people to agree to a loan and pay $500 to get an application started.

The average pay was $40,000 a year -- "good money, but not when you're working 60 hours a week," Lukas said.

He said it was a "high pressure, high stress job," where employees watched movies about cold-call sales, including "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Boiler Room."

"They're taught pounding the phones and making calls will make them successful. . There's nothing wrong with sales. What's wrong is saying it's not sales to avoid paying overtime," Lukas told jurors.

In response, Quicken Loans attorney Mayer Morganroth said the employees were akin to doctors and lawyers, professionals who don't get overtime. He said there is an overtime exemption in federal law for administrative work in the financial services sector.

"Just because it's used on occasion, that's not the nature of the job," Morganroth said of the word "sales."

He told jurors that employees knew they wouldn't receive overtime but still got commissions, health insurance, 401(k) contributions and tuition reimbursement.

"None of the plaintiffs kept track of their hours. There was no reason to do that. They were salary, not hourly," Morganroth said.

Before jury selection, Quicken Loans co-counsel Jeffrey Morganroth said Gilbert still was willing to discuss a settlement with the assistance of U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III.

Murphy was disappointed that the parties didn't talk over the weekend. He said he would help but "I don't think it would be productive" unless both sides truly want to make a deal.

Published: Thu, Feb 10, 2011

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