- The pre- and post-shift activities performed by a group of detention officers at a New Mexico county prison are compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled (Aguilar, et al. v. Management & Training Corporation, No. 17-2198 (10th Cir. Feb. 4, 2020)).
- The officers sued, alleging violations of state and federal law. The trial court ruled for the employer on summary judgment but the 10th Circuit disagreed, concluding that the activities were compensable. The court said security screenings and checking of specialized keys and equipment in and out of the inventory-control system were compensable under the FLSA because the activities are "integral and indispensable parts of the principal activities" the officers are employed to perform.
- The court also said pre-shift briefings, walking to and from posts and post-shift briefings were compensable as part of the officer's workday. Noting that the workers spend at least eight minutes per shift on the activities, the appeals court rejected the employer's arguments that the time was de minimis and that it didn't have to pay the officers because it did not know that the officers were engaging in the activities.
The FLSA can require that employees be paid for pre-shift and post-shift duties. The U.S. Department of Labor sometimes considers these activities work time and sometimes doesn't. Courts have also been wrestling with this, working to determine what, exactly, is compensable. A 2014 U.S. Supreme Court case concluded that only principal activities, the tasks that are an "indispensable" and "integral" part of an employee's duties, are considered compensable time.
PNC Bank agreed to pay $2.75 million to a group of former customer service reps to settle allegations they were regularly required to work off the clock, having been allegedly told not to clock in until after they had booted up their computers and read emails and reference materials. They also were told to clock out before shutting down computers at the end of each shift. CorePower Yoga recently paid $1.5 million to settle claims brought by yoga instructors who claimed they were not paid for the work involved in prepping for classes.
In general, however, small amounts of time need not be compensated. In 2017, a federal trial court in California granted summary judgment to shoe manufacturer Converse in a class action lawsuit challenging mandatory bag checks. While the plaintiffs claimed the bag checks sometimes took more than two minutes, Converse was able to show that the bag inspections generally took less than 10 seconds.