Call center workers can request overtime to start up computers

  • 9th Circuit revives FLSA overtime action against Customer Connexx, JanOne
  • Computer activation was an ‘indispensable’ part of the job, panel says

(Reuters) – Call center workers who communicated with customers exclusively by computer can claim overtime for time they spent starting company machines at the start of their shift, and to sign off and stop at the end, a federal court appeal held Monday.

The 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals has revived the lawsuit against Customer Connexx LLC and its parent company, Las Vegas-based biotech JanOne Inc, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA ).

A lower court judge had ruled for the companies last year, calling computer login procedures the “electronic equivalent” of queuing to clock in, which is not compensable in under the FLSA.

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At the request of the US Department of Labor, which filed an amicus brief in the case, the 9th Circuit instead focused on the fact that the computer system contained “the telephone program, scripts, customer information and the messaging programs” workers needed. to use at work.

“Here, employees’ tasks cannot be performed without turning on and starting their work computers, and it is necessary to have a functioning computer before employees can receive calls and schedule appointments,” wrote Circuit Judge Jay Bybee for the three-judge panel. “As a result, turning on the computers is an integral and indispensable part of the employees’ duties,” and therefore compensable under the FLSA.

The 9th Circuit remanded the case to the U.S. District Court in Las Vegas to determine whether the time spent waiting for the machine to shut down is also compensable and to address the companies’ other defenses to liability.

Lawyers for the Jackson Lewis companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Leah Jones of Thierman Buck, a lawyer for the workers, said they were eager to argue the case on remand.

Monday’s ruling “clarifies that employers must pay employees for tasks that their employees are required to do and must do in order to perform their duties,” Jones said in an email. “Certainly, no employee should have to provide their labor to an employer without receiving an appropriate wage.”

His clients alleged that, depending on the machine an employee was drawing on any given day at the Nevada call center, the start/login and logout/shutdown processes could add up to half an hour to their workday. .

In a footnote, the 9th Circuit warned it offered “no opinion” on whether the startup “would be compensable under the FLSA if the callers worked remotely or used their home computers. to perform these tasks”.

The case is Cariene Cadena and Andrew Gonzales, on behalf of themselves and all others in the same situation against Customer Connexx; JanOne Inc., et al., 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-16522.

For the workers: Joshua Buck, Mark Thierman and Leah Jones of Thierman Buck

For Connexx and JanOne customers: Veronica Hunter and Paul Trimmer of Jackson Lewis

For the United States Department of Labor: Frances Ma, Office of the Solicitor, Department of Labor

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