woman turning on computer

Does the time it takes for a computer to start up count towards your work hours? According to the Ninth Circuit, it does. And while this may not seem like a great amount of time, the minutes required to boot up a computer can add up to significant pay. There may be other seemingly minor tasks for which your employer isn’t compensating you. Not only may you be missing out on pay for these job duties, but the time that should be credited to you might push you over 40 hours in a week, thereby making you eligible for overtime. We take a look at the Ninth Circuit’s ruling and what it means for you.

The Basics of the Case

The opinion in Cadena v. Customer Connexx LLC arose out of a decision that was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Nevada call center workers who filed the initial lawsuit had provided customer service and scheduled customers for their employer, Customer Connexx LLC. Employees used computers to carry out their job duties.

Before accessing the computer to do their work, employees were required to clock in for the day using a timekeeping program. Because of the age of the computers, it could take up to 20 minutes for the computer to start up. At the end of a job shift, the workers were also required to close out of programs, log out, and shut down the computers. Logging off and booting down could take an estimated 4.75 to 7.75 minutes.

The district court initially ruled in favor of Connexx, but the appeals court reversed the decision and sent it back to the district court.

Boot-up Time: “Indispensable to … Job Duties”

The employees in this case claim that both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Nevada law required Connexx to pay for the time spent booting up and booting down computers. The court ruled that the time employees spent starting up their computers must be compensated under the FLSA because boot-up and boot-down time is integral and indispensable to workers’ principal job duties.

The court agreed with Connexx that booting up a computer was not a task for which employees were hired. However, booting up was a necessary duty to “engage” the computer because it contained the programs required to do the job. In other words, according to the court, booting up the computer was required in order for the employees to actually perform their primary job duties.

Notably, the court stated that not all activities that an employer requires of its employees are compensable. But in this case, the required activity (booting up the computer) “bears such a close relationship to the employees’ principal duties that employees cannot eliminate the required activity and still perform their principal duties.” Connexx tried to argue that this time is de minimis (trivial) and that the employer did not have “actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged overtime.” The appeals court decided to not address these arguments and instead instructed the district court to decide the case based on the standards it set forth.

What should employees take from the decision?

This ruling affects workers in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, as well as the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

However, you may have a similarly valid claim wherever you work. If your employer is requiring you to perform work-related tasks but isn’t compensating you for them, it’s possible that you are being denied both your actual pay and overtime if the minutes and hours add up to more than 40 hours during a week. Although there are exceptions to the FLSA (known as exemptions), the call center employees in this case were protected by the law. This is true for most hourly workers.

Here to Defend Your Rights to Fair Pay and Overtime

Do you have concerns that your employer isn’t fairly compensating you either for straight time (regular pay) or overtime? Reach out to The Lore Law Firm. Our national legal network is ready to review your case today. Complete our confidential online client intake form to get started.

Michael Lore is the founder of The Lore Law Firm. For over 25 years, his law practice and experience extend from representing individuals in all aspects of labor & employment law, with a concentration in class and collective actions seeking to recover unpaid back overtime wages, to matters involving executive severance negotiations, non-compete provisions and serious personal injury (work and non-work related). He has handled matters both in the state and federal courts nationwide as well as via related administrative agencies. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Michael by using our chat functionality.