That Time You Spend Logging On (and Off) Your Work Computer May Be Compensable Under Federal Law

Today, more and more workers do their jobs via a computer. As most computer-based workers know, getting into (and out of) the programs and/or applications necessary to do your job can be time-consuming. What you may not know, however, is that the time spent waiting on a computer could be time that’s compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Whether you’re an employee or an employer, a knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour lawyer can help you assess your situation for compliance with the law.

While not from here in Georgia, a recent FLSA case regarding computer-based workers shows how employees can be owed pay for these log-in and log-out times. The case pitted a group of Las Vegas-based customer service call center agents against their employer.

The employer required the call center agents first to log into the employer’s timekeeping program before logging into any other work-related programs. Allegedly, due to a series of variables, this process of reaching the timekeeping program could take as much as 20 minutes, with the average time ranging somewhere between seven and 12 minutes.

The employer also required the agents to log off and/or shut down their computers. This process, which occurred after the workers logged out of the company’s timekeeping program, allegedly took much as 15 minutes and averaged between five and eight minutes.

On the basis of those facts, the workers sued for violations of the FLSA and state law, contending that the employer illegally failed to pay them for the time they spent getting into and exiting their computers.

The federal district court sided with the employer, declaring that booting up and “turning off computers and clocking in and out of a timekeeping system” were not the “principal activities” for which the employer hired the agents and compared the boot-up and log-off times to the periods of time a worker might spend waiting in line at a physical time clock, which the law has long said is not compensable.

Computers Were ‘Integral and Indispensable’ to The Employees’ Jobs

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed that decision, ruling that the boot-up and log-off tasks were, contrary to the trial court’s decision, “integral and indispensable” to the work the agents did. Unlike an assembly line worker who could readily could do their job without clocking in or out at a physical time clock, the call center agents could do nothing without awakening or booting up their computers. The computers contained everything for doing the customer service job, from the phone program through which they took calls to the employer’s customer information database to the company email.

As the appeals court explained, while the employer did not hire the agents to boot up and log off computers, booting up and logging off were essential to the agents’ ability to do the customer service jobs for which the company hired them.

While the 11th Circuit has not ruled upon this issue directly, the 9th Circuit court is not the first federal appellate court to rule for workers facing this issue. Last October, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a group of customer service workers employed at a student loan servicer’s call center in Colorado. Much like the Nevada call center job, the Colorado customer service job required agents to log in to obtain access to timekeeping software, as well as email and the employer’s customer information database. These facts meant that the process of logging on and logging off was “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ work.

If accessing computer resources locked behind a log-in screen is “integral and indispensable” to doing a particular job, then that time spent logging in and logging out could count as compensable time. The experienced Atlanta wage and hour attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert can help employees to determine if they have a viable FLSA case and help employers to ensure they are compliant with the law. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation today.

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