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Federal Appeals Court Says Time Spent Booting Up Computer is Compensable Working Time

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The federal Portal-to-Portal Act deals with what activities are considered working time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This question is important because the working time calculation is used to determine how much pay, including overtime pay, a non-exempt employee is due under the FLSA. Federal courts have faced a never-ending string of lawsuits over what should and should not be considered compensable working time, and many of these cases have dealt with manufacturing tasks such as putting on and taking off protective gear. On Monday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed a working time question in a more white-collar context.

In Cadena v. Customer Connexx LLC, the plaintiffs were a class of call center employees who sued, claiming that they were not paid for time spent booting up and shutting down their computers at the beginning and end of their shifts. The district court dismissed the claim on the basis that this activity was not integral or indispensable to the employee’s main job duties and therefore was not compensable.

The Ninth Circuit reversed this decision, remanding the claim for further proceedings. The court noted that the call center employees’ duties required the use of their computers for most parts of the work. While time spent waiting to perform these duties is usually not compensable, in this case, it is integral to those duties because they cannot be performed without a functioning computer. Therefore, time spent on these duties is compensable working time.

The Ninth Circuit remanded to the lower court the employer’s claim that time spent booting up and shutting down the computers is de minimis and, therefore, not compensable. The record indicates that these tasks took between five and twelve minutes and, therefore, may not meet the requirements that such time is insubstantial in order for it not to be compensable. Employers with similar IT structures should review their policies in order to determine whether non-exempt computer users’ working time is being appropriately recorded and paid.