Maximus sued again over Obamacare call center

adutton@idahostatesman.comMay 6, 2014 

Laid-off employees of a Boise call center are suing the federal subcontractor that runs it, claiming they were led to believe their jobs were not temporary.

Maximus Inc. hired hundreds of Idahoans to work at the call center starting last June. Their job was to field questions from health-insurance exchange customers who were buying plans through the Affordable Care Act.

But open enrollment through exchanges closed at the end of March, resulting in a steep drop in calls. The Virginia-based Maximus decided to lay off 1,600 people from the Boise call center.

Three of those laid-off employees sued April 25, alleging Maximus "made promises to [employees] regarding the nature and length of their employment that [they] relied upon to their detriment."

The employees say Maximus led them to believe they were accepting "career" employment that would last through Maximus's 30-month contract to run call centers. Two employees say they quit jobs they held for years at Verizon and ITT Technical Institute to work for Maximus. One employee said she shut down an unnamed custom clothing and shoe company to work for Maximus.

The lawsuit claims damages of more than $80,000 and seeks class-action status to include other laid-off Boise employees.

An attorney for Maximus did not respond to Statesman calls and emails seeking comment.

An offer letter submitted as evidence says employment at Maximus is on an "at-will basis" and can be terminated "at any time." The company previously said some employees could be hired back in the fall, to start taking calls during the Affordable Care Act's next open-enrollment period.

This is the second lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boise to arise from the call center, which opened as part of a $100 million multiyear contract to serve customers using health-insurance exchanges.

Nine employees sued Maximus in January, claiming the company mischaracterized their jobs under federal labor laws, forcing them to work unpaid overtime. Soon after filing that lawsuit, the employees learned of mass layoffs. Their lawyers — who represent workers in both lawsuits — said in February that the employees thought their jobs would be permanent. In court documents, Maximus has denied the allegations.

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, @IDS_Audrey

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