Time spent by workers booting up their computers at a Las Vegas call center can be compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, overturning a lower court ruling.
The primary responsibility of the workers at Customer Connexx LLC’s call center is to provide customer service and scheduling via a telephone operated only through their employer-provided computers, according to the ruling by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in Cadena et al. Client Connexx LLC et al.
To access their computers’ timekeeping software, employees must turn on their computers, log in with a username and password and open the timekeeping system, which can take from one minute to 20 minutes, the ruling said. It takes an average of 4.75 to 7.75 minutes to log out and boot up the computer, the ruling said.
The workers sued in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, arguing that the time spent starting up and shutting down was an integral and indispensable part of their job duties, making their time compensable under the FLSA, as amended by the 1947 Portal- to-Portal Act, which provides that certain related activities may be compensable. The US Department of Labor filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in the case.
The district court granted the company summary judgment and was overturned by a unanimous three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals.
“All employees’ primary duties require the use of a functioning computer, so turning on or waking their computers at the start of their shift is integral and indispensable to their primary activities” and is compensable, the decision said.
The case was remanded to the lower court to determine whether time spent shutting down computers is compensable and whether time spent booting computers up and down is not compensable under the “de minimis” doctrine, which refers to something as small as the law will not consider it.
It said the lower court would also determine whether Connexx had no knowledge of the alleged overtime so that it did not violate the FLSA.
Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.