Cadena v. Customer Connexx: Time Spent Clocking-In Is Compensable
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal held that time spent logging in to start employees’ shifts should be compensable.
Plaintiffs – call center employees whose primary responsibilities were to provide customer service over the phone – filed a class action lawsuit alleging they were not paid for time spent booting up their computers prior to clocking in or closing down their computers after clocking out.
To record their time, Connexx’ employees used a computer-based system. To launch that application, employees had to awaken or turn on their computers, log in using a username and password, and open up the timekeeping system. At the end of their shifts, employees wrapped up any calls they were on, closed out of job-relevant programs, clocked out, and then logged off or shut down their computers.
Depending on the age of their computers (employees were not assigned a particular computer), plaintiffs estimated that the average boot up time was between 6.8 to 12.1 minutes and the average log off and boot down time was 4.75 to 7.75 minutes.
Relying on previous holdings concerning the federal Portal-to-Portal Act, which provides that pre-shift and post-shift activities are compensable only if those activities are “an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities,” Connexx argued the time employees spent booting up and shutting down their computers was non-compensable time because these activities (including the clock in/out activities) were not “principal activities.”
The district court agreed with Connexx, comparing booting up to “the electronic equivalent of waiting in line to clock in or out of a physical timeclock, which is non-compensable.” Plaintiffs appealed, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal reversed.
Per the Ninth Circuit, turning computers on is integral and indispensable to the employees’ principal activities of receiving customer phone calls and scheduling appliance pickup:
“All of the employees’ principal duties require the use of a functional computer, so turning on or waking up their computers at the beginning of their shifts is integral and indispensable to their principal activities. Because clocking into the timekeeping program occurs after booting up the computer—the first principal activity of the day—it is compensable.”
Implication for Employers
If employees need to spend time clocking in/out (to boot computers or wait in line): employers should determine the amount of time needed and include it in the employee’s compensable time for the workday. Employers can also find a more efficient way for employees to clock in/out; or ask employees to report any corrections in their recorded time to properly account for all hours they are “suffered or permitted to work.”
The Cadena decision goes hand in hand with the Camp v. Home Depot case, which questioned the validity of rounding practices when an employer can record employees’ time to the minute and the Troester holding of 2018. Any time spent under the employer’s control, should be properly accounted for, and compensated.
Nicholas Kanter and Tal Burnovski Yeyni are California employment defense attorneys.