- Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant, which is part of group of restaurants that includes Chili's Grill & Bar, has agreed to pay $116,308 in back wages to 82 workers to settle charges that it failed to pay the employees for pre-work shift activity, the U.S. Department of Labor announced April 12.
- Federal investigators found that the Philadelphia restaurant required workers to attend a 15- to 30-minute meeting before the beginning of their scheduled work shift and failed to pay the required federal minimum wage. When workers put in more than 40 hours, overtime pay requirements were triggered.
- The restaurant was also assessed a civil money penalty of $68,060 because investigators determined the violation was willful.
DOL noted in its announcement that "many chain restaurants hold pre-shift meetings to motivate their employees, reinforce training, update the day's menu and, ultimately, to maximize profits." Employers should typically compensate their workers for time spent in these meetings, the agency said.
Employers don't have to pay employees for small amounts of time. Converse prevailed in a 2017 case in which a California federal court ruled on summary judgment that the shoe manufacturer didn't have to pay workers for time spent in mandatory bag checks. The plaintiffs said the bag checks took over two minutes but Converse was able to show that the inspections took less than 10 seconds.
Preliminary and postliminary activities may or may not be hours worked, according to DOL. If an employee takes a shower at the end of the workday for his or her own benefit, then the employer would not have to pay for time spent in that activity. On the other hand, time spent putting on and taking off required protective gear is likely to be considered compensable work time.
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that workers must be compensated for pre- and post-shift tasks that are a "integral" and "indispensable" part of their duties. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that prison officers' pre-shift and post-shift activities that included security screenings and pre-shift briefings were compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act because the activities were "integral and indispensable parts of the principal activities" the officers were employed to perform.
More recently, the question of compensable time has risen again, this time prompted by coronavirus symptom testing and other pandemic-related tasks. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said that such activity is allowed. Lawsuits claiming employee compensability for COVID-19 testing and screening are starting to pop up. A group of Walmart employees took the nationwide retailer to court last month claiming that they were entitled to compensation for time spent in mandatory COVID-19 screenings before each shift under Arizona law.