Many employers believe they can expect employees to prepare for a shift and/or wind down from a shift on unpaid time. For example it is common for employers to require set up or meetings before employees clock in, or break down of equipment or clean up after clocking out. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), however, an employee deserves to be compensated for time spent on job-related tasks, especially if those tasks are considered mandatory. Furthermore, any time spent on job-related work that is not requested but “suffered or permitted” also deserves compensation, according to the Department of Labor’s FLSA fact sheet on hours worked.
FLSA lawsuit filed against Farmers Insurance
Compensable pre-shift activities are the center of a recent lawsuit, Ribot v Farmers Insurance Group, which a federal district court recently granted certification for class action. The lawsuit was filed by several customer service representatives (CSRs) employed at various Farmers Insurance call centers in Oregon, California, Kansas, Texas, and Michigan. The CSRs claim that they were required to arrive fifteen minutes before their shifts every morning in order to log into computers, start programs, check email, and log onto the phone system. Arriving early was necessary because the CSRs were expected to have their computers and phones up and ready to begin taking calls at the time their shifts began. If they were not fully prepared to take calls at the start of shifts, CSRs would be considered “out of adherence” with the schedule and tardy, which had a great effect on a CSR’s performance review. The CSRs claim they had a no-win situation that required them to work off the clock or suffer poor performance reviews. The CSRs assert that they deserve to be compensated for the pre-shift time spent preparing to take calls.
Maximum productivity and efficiency are important to employers, and therefore it is not unreasonable to expect employees to be ready to work and available to take calls at a certain time. However, if an employer such as Farmers Insurance has a policy that employees must arrive fifteen minutes early, they must realize that the policy affects the employees’ compensable time. FLSA requires employees to be compensated for activities that are indispensable and integral for the employee to complete job duties and that primarily benefit the employer. Pre-shift and post-shift activities that meet these criteria are compensable under the law. In the Farmers Insurance case, the CSRs needed to log into computer systems and phones in order to be prepared to complete their job duties, which were taking customer phone calls. These activities are indispensable and integral and benefited Farmers, and not the employees themselves. If the courts agree with this assessment, the CSRs will likely receive settlements for back overtime pay.
If you believe your employer has violated wage and hour laws by requiring off-the-clock work, call the employment lawyers at HKM to schedule a consultation.