Appeals Court Reverses Ruling Whether Call Center Agents Should be Paid While Computers Boot Up, Shut Down

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has overturned a lower court’s ruling in favor of the defendant and ruled that the time spent by agents in a call center booting up and turning off their computers is an “integral and indispensable” part of their duties and they should be paid for that time, regardless of how long it takes.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Cadena and Gonzalez et al. v. Customer Connexx and Janone can be accessed by clicking here.

The defendants operate a call center that provides customer service and scheduling for an appliance recycling business. The agents in the call center use a computer-based timekeeping program and are required to clock in and clock out to keep track of the hours they work. To access the timekeeping system, the employees have to turn on a computer, log in, and open up the program. The plaintiffs say that process can take anywhere from one to 20 minutes, depending on the computer they happen to be sitting at, with an average time of between seven and 12 minutes.

At the end of their shift, the employees log out, clock out, and turn off their computers, which can take as long as 15 minutes in some cases.

The employees filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act, arguing they should be paid for the time spent waiting for their computers to turn on and to turn off. The case was remanded to federal court and a District Court judge granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, ruling that the time spent turning the computers on and off was not an integral part of the employees’ job because they were not hired for that purpose.

But, the Appeals Court ruled, the plaintiffs would not be able to do their jobs without turning on their machines. That, in and of itself, makes the process “integral and indispensable” to their job functions, the Appeals Court determined.

“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,” the Appeals Court wrote.

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