Time spent booting up computer compensable under FLSA
Wage and Hour
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that hourly call center employees were entitled to be paid for time spent booting up their computers at the beginning of their shifts. The employees worked in person at a call center for an appliance recycling company. Their principal duties were to answer customer phone calls and schedule customer appliance pickups—tasks that required using a computer program at the worksite. The employees filed a class action suit claiming they should have been paid for time spent turning on their computers before clocking in, which they estimated took between 6.8 to 12.1 minutes.
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), activities performed before or after a shift that are “integral and indispensable” to the principal activities an employee is employed to perform are treated as principal activities themselves. Nonexempt (overtime-eligible) employees must be compensated for time spent on principal activities. The court found that booting up the company-provided computers was “integral and indispensable” to the call agents’ principal duties (which required using those computers), so the time spent booting up was compensable (Cadena v. Customer Connexx LLC, 9th Cir, October 2022).
Tips: The Ninth Circuit made it clear that its opinion was limited to the facts presented; it didn’t consider whether the same time would be compensable for employees working remotely on company computers or personal computers. The Ninth Circuit sent the case back down to the trial court to weigh the company’s argument that the time booting up the computers at the beginning of a shift was “de minimis” (too small to account for), and that the time shutting down the computers at the end of a shift wasn’t integral and indispensable to the employees’ principal duties (and therefore didn’t have to be paid time).
If the employees’ time estimates are believed by the trial court, it’s highly unlikely that the booting up time would qualify as “de minimis” under the FLSA. If such activities take more than a minute or so and occur regularly, the time is probably compensable. Wage and hour compliance must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney if you need legal advice on wage and hour policies, practices, or procedures. For more information, see our Legal Guide, Compensation for Pre-Shift and Post-Shift Activities.