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Ninth Circuit Rules Pre-Shift Duties Covered by FLSA

In a recent decision issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, it was ruled that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires compensation for pre-shift duties, such as turning on a computer and logging into a system. This reverses a lower court decision that had ruled the opposite, exempting employers from compensating employees for this extra time. The result could be a substantial increase in the pay for certain wage-earners.

 

What is the FLSA? The Fair Labor Standards Act is the federal law that protects certain employees’ right to fair compensation for their work. Among other things, employees covered by the law must be paid at least one-and-a-half times their normal wage for working overtime, and they must be fairly compensated for all time spent working. However, some employers try to get around this requirement by stretching the definition of what does, or does not, count as work that needs to be compensated by the company. What Was This Case About? In the case of Cadena v. Customer Connexx LLC, a group of workers at a call center brought a lawsuit against their employer for failing to pay for time spent turning on their computers and logging into the system. Workers estimated this cost them anywhere between six and twelve minutes each day, or up to an hour of unpaid time per week. The employer responded to this accusation by claiming this time was not covered by the FLSA, citing the “Portal-to-Portal” Act that excludes compensation for preliminary and postliminary duties. What Did the Court Decide? The Ninth Circuit sided with the employees in this case, saying that the exemption created by the Portal-to-Portal Act did not apply in this case. The rationale for this lies in the fact that employees cannot perform their duties without first turning on their computers and logging into the system. Because of this, the court ruled that the activity of turning on the computer and logging into the system was “integral” to the employee’s essential job activities, meaning it was covered under the FLSA. What Effect Would This Have on Workers? For some workers, this ruling could have a positive effect on their compensation. Many employees lose an hour or more every week on basic pre-shift duties that are normally not compensated, and which the FLSA has not necessarily applied to. With this ruling, some employees may get compensated for that extra time, giving them a bit of extra money with every paycheck. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 41 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. His new book, “Fired!: Protect Your Rights & FIGHT BACK If You’re Terminated, Laid Off, Downsized, Restructured, Forced to Resign or Quit,” is available in hardback, and contains valuable advice on dealing with employment and labor law issues. To purchase the book, feel free to contact Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or visit the website at legalstratpub.com. To inquire about a legal matter, please feel free to contact attorney Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or stevensackatty@hotmail.com.

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