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Connexx, a wholly owned subsidiary of JanOne Inc., operates a call center in Las Vegas, Nevada that provides customer service and scheduling for an appliance recycling business.

Cariene Cadena and similarly situated employees work in-person at the call center in a variety of hourly-paid, non-exempt positions, including as call center agents whose primary responsibilities are to provide customer service and scheduling functions over a “soft phone,” operated only through their employer-provided computers.

Employees clock in and out using a computer based timekeeping program, which they must do before accessing other job relevant programs. To reach the timekeeping program, employees must awaken or turn on their computers, log in using a username and password, and open up the timekeeping system.

Depending on the age of the computer and whether the computer was off or in sleep mode, it would take anywhere from a minute to twenty minutes for the computer to boot-up so they could clock in. Once clocked in, employees load various programs and scripts and confirm that their phone is connected and ready to accept calls.

At the end of their shift, employees wrap up any calls they are on, close out of job-relevant programs, clock out, and then log off or shut down their computers. Connexx employees gave varied accounts of how long it took to log off of their computers, ranging from less than a minute to fifteen minutes, and Connexx estimate it took an average of 4.75 to 7.75 minutes to log off and boot down the computers.

The plaintiffs filed suit in Nevada state court alleging violations of the overtime provisions of the FLSA and Nevada law. They contend that they were not paid for the time spent booting up their computers prior to clocking in to the electronic timekeeping system or closing down their computers after clocking out of the timekeeping program. Connexx removed the case to federal court.

The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants, holding that “[s]tarting and turning off computers and clocking in and out of a timekeeping system are not principal activities” because Connexx did not hire employees for that purpose, but “to answer customer phone calls and perform scheduling tasks.” The trial court compared booting up to “the electronic equivalent of waiting in line to clock in or out of a physical timeclock, which is non-compensable.”

Plaintiffs appeal. The United States Department of Labor (DOL) filed an amicus brief in support of Appellants. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded in the published case of Cadena v Connexx LLC – 21-16522 (October 2022).

Appellants have raised a single issue for review: Whether Appellants’ time spent booting up and shutting down their computers, through which they access their phone and customer service programs, is an integral and indispensable part of their duties and thus compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act .

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 29 U.S.C. § 203 (FLSA) is a United States labor law that creates the right to a minimum wage, and “time-and-a-half” overtime pay when people work over forty hours a week.

Clocking in may not be integral to the tasks for which the employees were hired and could be accomplished by other means, such as the traditional time clock or a time sheet. But the court went on to say that we “think the correct inquiry is whether engaging the computer, which contains the phone program, scripts, customer information, and email programs, is integral to the employees’ duties. That is, we should evaluate the importance of booting up the computer to the employees’ primary duties of answering calls and scheduling rather than to their need to clock in using the electronic timekeeping system. When the employees’ duties are understood in this way, the electronic timekeeping system becomes a red herring.”

“When framed correctly, the answer to the question ‘whether booting up the computers is integral and indispensable to the employees’ customer service duties’ is clear. 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 in to the timekeeping program occurs after booting up the computer ‘the first principal activity of the day’ it is compensable.”

The Tenth Circuit recently reached the same conclusion when faced with a similar claim from call center representatives. In Peterson v. Nelnet Diversified Solutions, LLC, 15 F.4th 1033 (10th Cir. 2021), the employees’ principal responsibilities were to “service student loans and interact with debtors over the phone and through email.” Before clocking in to an electronic timekeeping system, each employee had to wake up her work computer, enter her credentials, and load the desktop and the company’s intranet system, which contained the link to clock in.

The case was remanded to the district court for consideration of whether time spent shutting down computers was compensable, and whether the time spent booting up and down the computers was not compensable under the de minimis doctrine.