When a workday begins can depend on the type of work performed and necessary steps to start the work each day. But with the ever-growing presence of computer software use in the workforce, can starting up and shutting down a work computer add some extra time to a paycheck? The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals says that it is possible.
While many may be quick to compare starting up computers to waiting in line to punch a timecard, the Ninth Circuit ruled that for the call service employees at Connexx, the two are entirely different. In Cadena v. Customer Connexx LLC., decided October 24, 2022, call service employees claimed they should be compensated under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) for the additional 18.9 minutes it takes for their computers to turn on and off each day. Relying on the FLSA and the Portal-to-Portal Act, the Ninth Circuit found that booting up work computers could be compensable time, but shutting the computers down should not.
In specific situations, turning on computers each day can now be likened to the donning and doffing of protective gear. Without the use of functioning computers, the Ninth Circuit concluded that Connexx employees could not access any of the programs necessary to answer customer calls and perform scheduling tasks, the employees’ principal duties. Thus, the time spent starting up their work computers is integral and indispensable to the employees’ principal duties and should be compensated.
This case is a good reminder to all employers that under the FLSA, you are required to pay employees starting at the time of the first principal activity of the day. However, time that passes while the employee is waiting to begin their first activity of the day is not always compensable. For activities to be principal, and thus compensable, they must be integral and indispensable to the employee’s work. In today’s world, it isn’t as easy to determine when compensable time begins as it once used to be. With the days of punching in a timecard and walking straight to a workstation mostly behind us, employers should be aware of what tasks are integral and indispensable to their employees’ job performance and ensure they are compensating them appropriately.