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Ex-Worker Sues Ingram Micro, Seeks Back Wages : Courts: The Santa Ana computer products distributor failed to pay him overtime and forced him to resign after he complained, he alleges. He is also asking for damages of at least $40 million.

July 24, 1992|DEAN TAKAHASHI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — A former technical support representative at Ingram Micro Inc. has filed a lawsuit against the company alleging that it failed to pay him overtime and forced him to resign after he complained.

John Zanudo, 32, filed the suit Wednesday in federal court in Santa Ana. He alleges that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which governs wages, by withholding $2,188 in overtime pay that he was owed from July, 1990, to June, 1991.

In reclassifying his position from an hourly job to a salaried one exempt from overtime, the company--a distributor of computer products--violated labor law, Zanudo alleged. He also said the firm discriminated against him for speaking out.

In addition to the back pay, Zanudo asked for damages of at least $40 million plus legal fees and other costs. He also wants to be reinstated in his job as a technician answering customer-service calls for the company, which is based in Santa Ana.

Zanudo said that he was forced to resign in July, 1991, after he spoke out against a practice that required him and several dozen other employees to work unpaid overtime each week. He has been unable to find new work, Zanudo said, because the company defamed his reputation.

His complaints prompted a U.S. Labor Department investigation and review of overtime practices at Ingram Micro. The company, with $2 billion in annual sales, is the world's largest computer-products distributor. It would not comment on the case.

Ingram Micro officials have conceded in the past that the company may have misinterpreted federal labor laws but said they did not knowingly violate them. Those laws have not kept pace with the rapid changes in the nature of work in the computer industry, they said.

Zanudo began working at Ingram Micro in October, 1989. He said his technical support department--about a dozen people--was reclassified as salaried personnel in July, 1990. The change, which did not alter duties but included modest salary increases, was meant to reduce costs for after-hours employee training, he said.

Zanudo, who is a former law student, discovered that federal statutes allow companies to convert technicians into salaried personnel only if they have supervisorial responsibilities.

He protested to his managers. Zanudo said he was allowed to leave thereafter at the scheduled end of his workday, but when other employees followed suit, he alleges, management harassed him.

In letters to Zanudo, company managers criticized him for studying at work and for poor attendance, insubordination and poor work performance. Zanudo said that though he was not necessarily an exemplary employee, such charges were trumped up. He complained to the Labor Department in June, 1991, about a month before he resigned.

In an administrative proceeding in August, the state Employment Development Department ruled that Zanudo was entitled to unemployment insurance benefits because of "substantial evidence to support his claims" that he was forced to resign. The company appealed but later withdrew its objections.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department conducted an audit at Ingram Micro, and the company agreed in December to pay back wages to 30 employees. Zanudo received $4,859 in April but said the amount was less than the $7,047 to which he was entitled.

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