Business

Maximus to close Boise call center, lay off 1,500 workers

More than 1,500 employees will lose their jobs starting next month.

The company has hired, laid off and rehired hundreds of employees at the call center, which opened in fall 2013 to provide customer support for the federal health-insurance exchange created under the Affordable Care Act.

This round of layoffs is permanent, according to a letter dated Monday to Maximus employees. The Idaho Statesman obtained the letter Friday. The city of Boise also received notice that Maximus would close its office and conduct mass layoffs, according to a city spokesman.

Maximus, a Virginia company that serves health and human-service agencies under contract, is a subcontractor under a $100 million, 30-month federal government contract for services to exchange customers, according to court documents from a lawsuit against it.

"The reduction in staffing is based on the term of the contract," the letter to employees said. Maximus said in the letter that some employees will receive severance pay.

Maximus did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The layoffs could drive up Ada County's 3.2 percent unemployment rate by as much as a half of a percentage point - raising it to as much as 3.7 percent - if nothing else changes in the local employment landscape. The unemployment rate is based on numerous factors. The Idaho Department of Labor projected the effect of Maximus layoffs based on present-day data, in response to a Statesman request.

HIRING AND FIRING

Maximus hired about 1,600 Idahoans for its Boise call-center launch in 2013.

Layoffs followed in spring 2014. Several employees from the Boise call center sued Maximus over the layoffs. They claimed the company led them to believe the jobs were permanent. Maximus denied those allegations, saying its call-center work was temporary - ramping up and winding down in tandem with the federal exchange's enrollment season each year. That lawsuit is pending in federal court.

Separately, employees at the Boise office sued Maximus in early 2014 for unpaid overtime. That lawsuit, also still pending in federal court, claimed Maximus mischaracterized the employees' jobs and, as a result, deprived them of overtime pay. Maximus denies those allegations.

Maximus started its latest Boise-area hiring spree in summer 2014 - for the 2015 enrollment season, running November 2014 through February 2015 - and struggled to fill 1,800 openings. The Idaho Department of Labor coordinated several job fairs for the company.

Maximus continued to advertise opportunities at its Boise call center as recently as Friday, on its careers website, but it had taken down the actual job listings for Boise.

The call center operates in Building 8 on the HP campus on Chinden Boulevard. No future tenant has been announced. A spokesperson from HP declined to comment Friday.

  Comments