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I work as a minimal wage, over the phone technical support agent for Verizon. How customers are treated on a company wide systemic level is centered around low wage workers like me pacifying at least 80 customers per day, with discipline for anyone who sacrifices turnaround for ... actually helping.

This leaves many customers livid, with every 4th customer ranging from yelling and cussing, to calm but equally malicious and psychopathic.

Years of working like this has left me emotionally scarred, to say the least. Unfortunately, getting another job hasn't been an option, not that conditions are much more favorable elsewhere. It seems to be the norm, with no laws to prevent it, but I thought I should ask for your casual insight here all the same.

What rights do I have that cannot be abridged by my employer, regarding how I can handle or avoid abusive customers? Are there any legal protections against working conditions like these?

  • I feel your pain: I've walked out of a similar job. Where I've managed a team in the past I have told them to first warn the customer, then hang up. I realise you may not be given the same information. You do have rights, and should speak with your supervisor immediately. Always make it clear to your supervisor that your role is affecting your health. Make sure it's recorded and that you receive a copy. Write a letter and get it signed if necessary. In the UK an employer has a duty of care. I assume it's the same in most civilised countries. – Ken Sharp Feb 5 '16 at 9:26
  • ...Hasn't anyone pointed out to their operations research group how inefficient that is? I feel like if someone collected data on how many calls are repeat calls, how many repeat callers switch providers, and how much both of those things are costing the company, things would be different. – Parthian Shot Feb 11 '16 at 4:17
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    @Parthian Shot: I'm sure they calculate how many customers they lose to their market share and how little they pay employees and their overall profit, so they can afford to save money by not doing a good job with customer relations or by their employees. – BlueDogRanch Feb 17 '16 at 6:08
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You're asking for a casual (not legal) assessment of your situation, so here goes; but keep in mind many attempts to remedy your situation may involve legal decisions that you need to make on your own.

Basically, you need to determine company policy regarding employee health and abuse by customers; document incidents and conversations; and look outside the company for other resources.

First, you are bound by your employee contract and handbook and any remediation language in it; so read that and any sections that have to do with health and working conditions and what recourse you have with the company and your immediate management. You should talk to your supervisor and others up the chain of management about what is happening with your work environment.

And when you do, it's a good idea to document what is said, either at the time in your meetings (written notes; ask permission to digitally record), or afterward in your notes. (And document if you are not allowed to document.)

It's a good idea to document a few days of your customer interactions, unless your employee handbook forbids this. Don't use real names or customer IDs, but write a few general sentences about each interaction for use later in mediation or legal venues.

Outside the company, a Google search will give you information about a human rights commission or NGO in your state that deals with worker rights; contact them about the rights you have that supersede any company policies.

And a quick Google search for "Verizon working conditions" gives lots of information and various NGO sites dealing with Verizon and unionizing, outside support systems for Verizon employees, possible on-going and current litigation against Verizon, and more.

Lastly, there are attorneys who would do a no-fee initial assessment of your situation; check the web or the phonebook.

Your situation appears to be sadly common, but take some legally permissible steps to get help from management and outside sources.

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