Should Terminix Do A Class Action Suit Against Its Employees?

Since I received this story from a loyal reader I have tried diligently to figure out some in’s and outs so that this article would be fair and unbiased. To be honest, I haven’t found much of anything that supports my initial belief and inclination which was to rag on the ‘mega corp’ while siding with the part of this industry I admire the most, – the tech. Since lawyers, legal speak and errant websites abound it was difficult finding hard facts so I’m afraid all I can offer is my opinion. Based on what I know from my 27 years in the industry, owning a company and having been in the SAME shoes those techs involed in this are, let’s just say- If you are a California Terminix employee you may not enjoy this article – OR (& I hope this is the case) you will set me straight on some things as you see it that I could not find or know. Either way I welcome yours or anyones opinion on this subject who has the same or another view.

The Suit’s

We all know what a class action suit is right? It usually is started by one disgruntled person or small party of folks but is expanded to include the many more who may be caught up in the same situation but haven’t spoken up. The purpose is to settle the whole matter for the many all at once rather than go through each individual case. In the end, the many who are involved only dilute the overall “pie” that is to be cut up but the lawyers always make sure their 1/2 (or more) is set aside and can’t be touched by those who were “allegedly” wronged. Compared to what the individual gets, the lawyers are ALWAYS the big winners.

This action was initiated by Plaintiff Brian Ayala, on behalf of all employees of Terminix International, Inc. of California but in reality there were TWO such lawsuits filed. Terminix has since offered a settlement of 9 million dollars. It is unclear at the time of this writing whether one or both of these matters has been settled but there is one aspect I see as clear as day.

What’s Alleged

In August 2006, a class action lawsuit was filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court against Terminix International, Inc. and Terminix International Company Limited Partnership. On behalf of all California technicians, the lawsuit seeks wages, including overtime pay, for off-the-clock work, including time spent traveling from company offices to the technician’s first daily assignment, time spent arranging and confirming the following day’s appointments, and working meal periods, during which employees spent unpaid lunch periods traveling between appointments or doing other work for Terminix.

Are You Kidding Me?

Besides the fact that I have to call out fellow technicians my real problem with this lawsuit, if this is all that’s to it– is that this is major BS! The settlement proposed is $9 million dollars total or $38 dollars per week for the period of Dec 5th 2001 to Dec 26th 2008. The math works out to $13,832 per tech and they get this because-

They had to eat their lunch while driving…
Travel time from the office to their first appointment…
They had to confirm their next days appointments….

I’m sorry but- I and THOUSANDS of techs like me have been doing this for years. Aren’t you commissioned based? The draw system RIGHT? You get paid on the amount of work you do-PRODUCTION I think they call it. You do a certain amount you get certain pay- work more you get more don’t get the route done and well, you get problems. It’s what you signed on for- it’s been this way for years & I got news for you. Terminix isn’t the only one who does this. And for a further news flash- Many pest control firms are EVEN WORSE at pay versus work. Believe me- I’ve experienced that first hand. Now I really don’t begrudge anyone for wanting a better lot in life, in fact I encourage it. But if you feel that you’re being dogged by this arrangement with Terminix, just wait until you cut bait and head for greener pastures. IT AIN’T THERE for the employee minded person who just wants to collect a paycheck and never go forward in his or her career. This is to me just a quick jump on a band wagon that has a short sighted & limited reward.

Bottom Line

My math has each tech in this suit getting awarded 13 k or there abouts if the lawyers get nothing but hell, you know that ain’t happening. Terminix is offering 9 million to make this go away. That means there is either only 692.3 disgruntled techs in California or by the time this thing is said and done- there will only be a few hundred measly dollars if that for the individual and you’ll be asked to continue the hard work of running a route, dealing with schedules and doing what technicians have done & continue to do around the rest of the country or take your $ 200.00 award and leave.

Maybe you’ll leave the industry because you’re disillusioned or perhaps you really like the work and you’ll apply to companies such as mine. You’ll have some pretty good qualifications alright but when it comes to that part on the application as to why you left your last job what will you say? When I look at you and tell you what I expect will you readily agree and happily take on the task? My gut says you will and that this bogus lawsuit has just caught you & many of your peers in an awkward place where you thought you might cash in although you’re really not sure why.

It’s at this time (although I won’t admit it for legal reasons) I won’t hire you. Why should I just so you can bring this same misery mentality on me? No company including Terminix was created so you could have a job and dictate terms. It’s just not so. Although it would never be worth the time of Terminix to single you or your co-litigants out one by one- it might be if they too, could include you in a class action suit.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • Mel

    Jerry I agree with you 97+ percent of the time but you’re looking at this Terminix lawsuit from an honest mans perspective, your work experiance, and not understanding California Law.  I don’t know it that well but I can say their laws exceed Federal over time laws. It’s overtime pay for 8 hours in a day and double time for over 12 hours in a day. My first few years were spent working well over twelve hours a day including most saturdays and I did not suit the company. I worked good companies and bad ones.  I’ve worked other industries and making phone calls from your home is considered working, washing/cleaning the trucks is working, and so is driving but most pest control companies do not seem to think so.  The majority of the times the draw system works. I usually do not care about the extra  work for no compensation either unless my pay does not reflect the amount of work I did regardless how much production was completed. There has been times where I worked harder to complete 6k production than 16k but if it keeps happening I wont be happy. Usually the more you work the more one makes.  We’ve all seen it. That mouthy guy no one likes or the nice guy who never says no to the boss is assigned that two hour long 53 dollar accounts, the undersold job way two hours drive away, assigned every elses call backs.  Most the time commision works out for the tech and the company.  Ayala’s case Im guessing he felt he was not compensated fairly for all the extra work regardless of the draw system, sued terminix and won a settlement. Draw is not salary and there are employment laws in place to help avert such abuse. Also we do not know if the dollar amount of the settlement included penalties and interest. I recieved a settlement once on a case initiated by another employee because of employment/labor law violations. Once the state took the case, they audited and every employee at this company who worked for the company past and present recieved back pay some just hundreds some tens of thousands. The fines for violations payed to the state  easily doubled what he had to pay the employees. Perhaps they settled at a seemingly high dollar amount to save money:)

  • California laws and standards are different. I recently learned it was ‘not allowed’ (whether it’s law or not I don’t know) that you can’t even remove your shoes in a customers home there. http://pestcemetery.com/for-the-place-whereon-thou-standest-is-holy-ground/ (it’s in the comments)  Plus while I here in FL. enjoy certain products or shall we say ‘less restrictions’ on some pesticides & procedures, California can be quite burdensome. So you are right, I do not know the full scope and you are partially correct on my approach and what shapes my thinking …& Not trying to blow smoke… BUT

    I would say you’re doing much the same thing—- you are a tech whose interest is the client and job FIRST and somewhere down the line YOUR time, comfort & recompense fit in.  You are the kind of tech that could be a successful owner today with no further training. This is because you have been through all this and seen both sides and still love the work and seek to excel. You would be a ‘Techs Owner” which is in my mind is way better than a “Text Book Owner”.Having said this I know the human psyche too… Techs the world round have many of these challenges on an everyday basis but rarely take their grievances this far. and if we’re being honest–a lot have figured out  how to ‘make their days more convenient for THEM by learning shortcuts etc… I can take you you around my town almost any time of day and find bug trucks parked behind their houses thinking no one can see them. They’re either done for the day because they did the worlds fastest service or hiding out playing Nintendo, napping or what have you while playing hookie. So when I read this story and the rationale behind it– yes, in my mind I inserted THIS tech into this box and for the others involved– They just went along for the ride and who can blame them. As always, Great insight Mel & you give us all pause for thought– now– about that 97%   lol

  • Stuto1

    Maybe this is why my old company paid me the way they did. I end up making 30% of my route in production but it was not a straight percentage off the top. They paid a minimum for anything under 8500 in production and anything over that was a bonus which worked out to 30%. I don’t remember the details but it seems that I was technically a salaried employee.

    Maybe its time to have a lawyer review your payment structure so you don’t get sued by your employees for overtime.

  • I was paid almost exactly as you early in my career except we got only 15%….. Later I had a job where it was hourly and OT over 40 and time & 1/2 for Sat. I took that model (modified to my situation) for how I pay. If my techs get done in less than 40 hours they still get full pay….(40) If they go over we usually let it ride figuring it’ll be made up which it almost always is. I don’t worry if they need to get off a 1/2 day here or there and they don’t sweat doing a 43 hour week from time to time. It really is easy to be fair but I know it’s just as easy to cheat someone. The problem with getting bigger–You HAVE to create hard and fast rules for everyone or you face envy, strife and confusion which brew behind the scenes and will bite you hard when they finally surface.

  • Mel

    I will assume removing your shoes and NOT replacing the shoes with adequate PPE per label instructions is law anywhere in the United States but not every state will enforce the law like California.

    Regarding the Terminix lawsuit you, stated few techs take their grievences this far and you’re right. Ignorance of the law by both Tech’s and Employers generates this “its the way it is and always has been” mentality even if it contradicts the law. Like you, I read a lot of pest control articles and have seen many more Ayalas smearing their once employers name citing the same claims made in the lawsuit. I have also read Pest control job classifieds advertising their pay with various combinations of draw, commision percentage, and hours per week posted, which were obviously a risk of a lawsuit. I have experianced being ripped off myself as well as had tech’s ask me how to correct the situation. I always tell them document their hours worked and compare it to the pay. Talk to the boss about it and if the situation is not corrected find a new job or continue working and documenting the hours for our state which will investigate once adequate proof is submitted. Small companies usually correct the situation. I even had a large corporate pest control branch pay me overtime while another branch for the same company refused. One manager knew the law and the other was ignorant of the law or did not care.
     
    Now to answer your question “should Terminix sue its employees?” My answer is yes. It should sue those employees such as managers, risk management, legal department, and human resources. It is their job it is to know how to pay an employee. Therefore, they should be sued for breach of fiduciary duty. Had they investigated and either explained when they were right or paid the $156 and $329 each time Mr Ayala presented them with an “error” in pay. This can of worms would not have happened.

    P.s. I only agree with you 97% of the time because you have 20 more years experiance than I. I still have some learning to do.

  • How do you spell Touché’ ?

     The only PPE I ever worried about on the shoe removal was the house wife when I dragged mud through the house and having her throw things at me ;)– It never dawned on me that this was a label instruction— guess I’ll be buying some ‘shoe covers’

    As to whom Terminix should sue– Epic Response!  That’ll go down in the comment Hall of Fame — “How to shut the writer up, leave no wiggle room and still be a nice guy!

    I’ve been smiling about that one all day!!!!!  

  • A1982rangersfan

    Worked for TMX for 3 years, I’d like to compare two employees, one works a light week, has a nice area, minor problems here and there, pretty much no cancels, makes close to 70K a year because of his area, the second employee has not so nice an area, works on average about 10 more hours a week, deals with rude customers who don’t pay and he spends extra time calling them for the money, gets told something by the boss weekly for his “numbers” and deals with german roaches and other crap jobs vs. maintenance pest control and he makes just over 30K if he’s lucky because of the pay plan rewarding for numbers, is the 30K guy a bead tech? Well he has been working for them for almost 10 years now so I’d assume no. TMX should have a standard percentage they pay everyone with a few rewards for years worked. TMX 6 8-10’s, 5 10-12’s, spend 25 minutes a stop, if you can add you know there is no way, yet when a customer gets mad at the company and even though likes the tech and cancels the tech gets hit for it, 600 customers on a route, 200 a month, servicing Jan. you have 20 cancels you’re Over the limit, even if those cancels are from Feb. or March customers on the 3 month cycles, so if that’s the case you should base cancels off of 600 customers or only include cancels from Jan. and then compare to 200, TMX works the books, customer passes away, that’s a cancel, TMX raises the bill 3 bucks and the customer cancels, that’s a cancel, go over their version of 10 percent and your check just got dropped down to the draw if you’re lucky, other companies do not have you calling people who have not paid either, how are you supposed to be on the customers good side while calling them for money? So to end it, the guy that does more work makes 30K and the guy who has a dream route of one mapsco page in a nice area makes 70K, there are plenty that make 40-60K, no doubt, but this is anything but fair and only people who are not bound to the 30K route would disagree and not it’s not me, I could write another 5 pages but I think I’ve made my point.

  • Thanks for your reply,

    I do hope you spend some time reading other articles I’ve written in this blog- I take it this subject hit a nerve (not only with you).  You may see a better balance than I think you perceive there is.

    My main focus and goal is to support the tech & the small Mom & Pop or single operators and give them articles worth reading. That said, I cannot turn my back on what has happened here in this story and the “why” it happened. I listed the 3 reason for this suit and none of THOSE REASONS were valid in my judgment. You did not address those so I cannot comment on how you feel about what I wrote. As far as what you mentioned– all I can say is, I worked for the same company as you for 8 years and other huge firms as well. My pay never got to even 30 k and I (we) all had to do everything in my writing as well as went through the same angst as you.  I remember having the ‘scrub’ routes (plural) and the mansions– I even did commercial pest for years. I don’t remember the night and day difference you describe. The challenge of pest control and a successful route runs across the board.

  • A1982rangersfan

    The night and day difference is only growing, I do believe the Dallas area is a very unique one though and you may not have experienced something like that and have been out of the coorperate game from a technician stand point for a while now. To addreess THOSE REASONS, it’s a lawyer that makes those reasons, obviously the lawyer can’t submit something like I spoke of, he has to talk to the jury not only about something they may be able to relate to but also work within the parameters of the law as it’s written, sadly there are none for upper mngmt. ignorance that it is more the route than the technician, maybe if they would participate in a show of undercover boss? But I doubt it, because number never lie, just people’s perception of them

  • A lawyer can’t submit anything- he doesn’t start the litigation. In almost all class action suits he only fans the flames and gets others to sign on who do nothing but sign their name to a piece of paper so they can be included. If you want to be honest about it–greed grips the majority of them thinking they’ll have a big payday. Then at the end-they (the litigants) get their pittance and guess who walks away with the lions share. All because of -in my opinion, on this case based on what I researched- 3 bogus reasons. The 3 reasons you still did not comment on so again. I don’t know how you feel about having to eat your lunch while driving, not getting recompensed for Travel time from the office to their first appointment… and having to confirm their next days appointments….

    You say Dallas is unique- how so? Also, I’ve been a tech and all the way up to national Accounts Rep., in the industry for 30 years, employer for 20, how am I out of touch?

    This article seems to have chased away a few readers and brings out deep seated feelings in others.  I’d like to actually hear where I’m wrong. 

    As stated, I’m all for the techs, but in this light, I don’t believe I’m off base.

  • bug killed today

    if you think the lawsuit was bogus. Why dont you go fuck yourself!!!!!!!!!!

  • bug killed today

    To all people who think they know everything about pest control in California. You dont live in California and do not have to go by its socialist rules. You dont pay our high taxes.  You think everything should be like your state, but its not even close.  The right to work shit does not work here.  Walk in our shoes before you make such fucked up statements!!!!!!!!!!!! You have no clue!!!

  • Typical- I left your first response below to showcase your intelligence. Let us know how things are once you’ve spent your pittance & you’re back to the same old grind. ( I don’t think it’ll take long )

  • Northfield office

    Rose Pest does the same…work you til death and pay you flat 8 hours per day…and of course you work at least 9, per day. So I am suing them as well.

  • Let us know how that goes.

  • Sounds interesting- I’d appreciate the updates.

  • northfield office

    the non-compete part of the lawsuit…over. non-compete ruled unenforceable. Rose Pest (actually their lawyers) countersued and that action moved from Chancery to Law Division in Cook County. I countersued their counterclaim for breach of employment contract. i removed the overtime claims from the State Court and opened a Federal overtime lawsuit. Rose’s lawyers must be deligheted as they get paid anyway. I told Rose the non-compete is garbage but they couldn’t hear me. Now, after paying two lawyers from Eipstein and Green for 10 months…do they hear? Nope :), they go ahead with a counterclaim for the three customers who left them and came to me. 3 freaking customers hahahahhha. Rose Pest deserves its lawyers and if they buy themselves a private plane, or four, with the money from Rose…good for them, smart lawyers. As for me I am still poor, still can’t afford any lawyers but that’s ok, I am getting a hang of this court thing 🙂

  • northfield

    State lawsuit over-non-compete unenforceable, Rose’s counterclaim withdrawn (duh :p), federal lawsuit over, Rose settles, confidentiality prevents me from disclosing the amount paid. Don’t you hate this system where the public could be told of a lawsuit and that it ended but not the details? Freaking lawyers, makes you think this is North Korea where the peasants are not worthy of hearing the details…but anyway the non-disclosure term was brought in by Rose’s lawyers so it stands to reason it is Rose Pest that doesn’t want the public to know the details of the lawsuit. I could say this: I am pleased the way lawsuit ended and is not my fault the lawyers got together and managed to find a way to hide the details…maybe judges should think twice before agreeing information to be withhold from the public. I agreed because I am not “public’s defender, it is not my job to “help” the public in any way but it should be the Courts otherwise what happened here will happened again to someone else and so on…it never ends because essential information is locked into the confidentiality agreement…Maybe the Courts and the lawyers do want these type of things to happen again? Of course, job security hahahahha. See you guys around, I’m out celebrating what I said will happen: I will not lose either lawsuit.

  • Well- I’m glad your ordeal came to end.

  • justice

    Bug doctor, you must be a Terminix CEO. Chief Evil Operator. Republican too, right? You are clueless.

  • I’ve heard that too…. Thx.

  • bug killed today

    Bug Doctor, I still think your fucked up. You know it all bitch!!!

  • Thank you… Hopefully you got more than a couple hundred bucks from your settlement. You might need it in between jobs.

  • nick

    if a class action is file on terminix all employee it will pass asap.. as a tech you don’t have time to finish your route and lunch is out of the picture. overtime is not paid but you always work 130 to 160 hrs a month due to the way the stops are shd. if a customer wants you there after five its shd after five. bottom line the hrs. dont match pay if your a tech at terminix you know what am talking about and if customer cancel you lose money on top of that this must stop

  • nick

    180 to 200 hrs a month typo

  • I think you’re talking about ‘charge backs’ if a customer cancels… I agree I don’t like that system. @ 200 hours per month (based on your typo comment) that’s 600 minutes. Divide that by say 15 stops per day and that’s 40 minutes per client…Terminix would shoot you if you spent that long. Most likely you do about 18 stops.. That’s 33 minutes which ‘still is too long’ but now you can factor in travel time…Not saying I agree or endorse this…didn’t say I did in the article either… but with this formula you can get that many jobs done. How do I know? I worked for them for about 8 years. So I don’t believe I’m out of line by writing this article and the opinion I have.

  • bug killed today

    I missed telling you to go fuck yourself.

  • bug killed today

    Lets not let this end bug doctor. Your a fucking know it all. You are the kid i would have beaten up on the playground in grade school. Your opinion on shit is worthless, but i bet your wife already told you that. You worthless piece of shit

  • bug killed today

    I meant your husband. Your to fucked up to ever get any pussy

  • bug killed today

    Your nothing but shit on my boot, that can be wiped off at anytime. You low life fuck. Worthless bastard. I cant stand you.

  • bug killed today

    They must have found you at the clown show. Little did they know what kind of a freak you are.

  • bug killed today

    You are so fucking arrogant. You cock sucker

  • bug killed today

    Sounds to me like the big doctor should do the monica lewinski on the terminix ceo. I know the bug doctor would get off on that.

  • bug killed today

    you little hall monitor fuck. Its assholes like you that fucked this country up