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Customer service reps allege they’re due back pay for logging in and out of work

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Dive Brief:

  • CareCentrix, a Connecticut-based healthcare administration platform, allegedly owes customer service representatives for pre- and post-shift activities like booting up and shutting down computers, according to a proposed collective action, Jones v. CareCentrix, Inc.
  • The representatives, who were paid an hourly rate, were required to field calls the moment their shift started, the Aug. 10 complaint alleged. That meant they had to start their computers and log onto applications before they could clock in, according to the complaint. Similarly, at the end of their shift, they had to clock out before they could log out of the apps and shut down their computers, the complaint alleged. These pre- and post-shift activities took about nine to 12 minutes per day, according to the lawsuit.
  • A former rep sued CareCentrix, alleging it violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. She said the company: failed to compensate CSR for activities that were “integral and indispensable” to their customer service responsibilities; kept inaccurate records of the total time they worked; and excluded non-discretionary bonuses and shift differentials from regular rates of pay. The suit seeks unpaid wages, including overtime pay, liquidated damages and a declaration that the reps’ rights were violated.

Dive Insight:

Depending upon the job, employees who seek pay under the FLSA for time spent booting up computers and logging into work-related programs may have some grounds for success.

Last October, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of hourly employees who worked at a Las Vegas call center handling customer service calls for an appliance recycling business.

The employees claimed the FLSA required that they be paid for the time they spent prior to their shifts booting up company computers and logging on to the timekeeping system. Once clocked in, they downloaded various scripts and programs, including phone software they needed to make and receive customer calls from their computer.

The FLSA generally doesn’t require compensation for time employees spend on tasks before or after their regular work shift, the 9th Circuit explained. But the Supreme Court has clarified that such tasks are compensable if they are “integral and indispensable” to an employee’s principal activity.

For the Las Vegas employees, booting up their computers at the beginning of their shifts was and indispensable to their job and therefore compensable under the FLSA because they couldn’t perform their principal duty — receiving customer calls and scheduling — without a functional computer, the appeals court held.

That ruling — relevant to cases in Nevada, California, Arizona, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Hawaii — is consistent with the U.S. Department of Labor’s guidance that a call center employee’s first principal activity of the day is starting the computer to download work instructions, computer apps and work-related emails.

Given the fact-specific nature of such issues, employers may want to carefully evaluate whether work-related pre- and post-shift activities are integral and indispensable to an employee’s main responsibilities.

The consequences of getting it wrong can be steep. In May, a federal jury awarded DOL more than $22 million in a donning and doffing case filed against battery manufacturer East Penn Manufacturing Co. The award included back pay for more than 7,500 employees for the additional time they spent beyond their 8-hour shifts putting on and removing protective equipment and showering to avoid the dangers of lead exposure and other hazards, DOL said in a press release.

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