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Time that workers spend booting up their computers in a Las Vegas call center may be compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, in overturning a lower court decision.
Workers’ primary responsibility at the Customer Connexx LLC call center are to provide customer service and scheduling over a phone operated only through their employer-provided computers, according to the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in Cadena et al. Customer Connexx LLC et al.
To reach their computers’ timekeeping program, employees must turn on their computers, log in with a username and password and open up the time keeping system, which can take from a minute to 20 minutes, said the ruling. It takes an average of 4.75 to 7.75 minutes to log off and boot down the computer, the ruling said.
The workers filed suit in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas alleging the time spent booting up and shutting down was an integral and indispensable part of their duties, making their time compensable under the FLSA, as amended by the 1947 Portal-to-Portal Act, which provides that some related activities may be compensable. The U.S. Department of Labor filed an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs in the case.
The district court granted the company summary judgment and was overturned by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.
“All of the employee’s principal duties require the use of a functional computer, so turning on or waking up their computers at the beginning of their shifts is integral and indispensable to their principal activities” and is compensable, the decision said.
The case was remanded to the lower court to rule on whether time spent shutting down computers is compensable and whether the time spent booting up and down the computers is not compensable under the “de minimis” doctrine, which refers to something so small the law will not consider it.
It said the lower court should also decide whether Connexx had no knowledge of the alleged overtime such that it was not in violation of the FLSA.
Leah L. Jones, an associate with plaintiff law firm Thierman Buck in Reno, said in a statement, the 9th decision “is correct and further clarifies that employers must pay employees for tasks their employees are required to do and must do to accomplish their job duties, the integral and indispensable standard set forth by the United States Supreme Court” in its 2014 ruling in Integrity Staffing Solutions, Inc. v. Busk.
In the Integrity case, the Supreme Court ruled that a company was not obligated to compensate workers for the 25 minutes a day they spent waiting to undergo a security screening to leave warehouses in Las Vegas and Fenley, Nevada, because the security checks were not a “principal activity” they were employed to perform.
This was not the case here, where employees necessarily had to spend time turning on and performing other functions on their computer to perform their job, Ms. Jones said.
Connexx’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.