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Wage & Overtime: Does iWait Time Violate FLSA?

| Dec 11, 2013 | minimum wage violation, overtime time violation |

Attorney Answers: “Am I entitled to overtime pay for waiting in line to start my job?” “Should my job be paying me to put on put on protective equipment?”

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As our wage and hour lawyers have blogged in the past, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), employers must pay all employees, with few exceptions, at a rate equal to or greater than the federal minimum wage for all time worked. But when, exactly, does one begin “working,” to the extent that they are entitled to wages?  This exact question has popped up from time to time, as employers require employees to perform certain task “off the clock” that are nonetheless related to performing the job.

This exact question has recently come up, in the case of Kalin v. Apple. This case involves a former Apple Store employee, who alleges that Apple Store employees were not paid for the 1 to 1.5 hours they spent each day waiting in line to clock in and out of work. The story behind these “wait times” is an interesting one, as apparently Apple required employees to check in and out Apple equipment, such as Ipads and Iphones, at the beginning and end of their shifts, which would take a lot of time. As a result, employees often ended up waiting in long lines for as long as 45 minutes. However, employees were not paid for this time.

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Obviously, the question then is does this time count? Many people would agree, for example, that employees should not be paid for the time it takes to drive to work, even if they get stuck in a traffic jam. But this case is different, because the wait was specifically due to a requirement of the job- receiving and returning equipment.  In the past, Courts have held that this critical fact- that the time was related to the requirements of the work- makes all the difference.

Take, for example, the case of Ballaris v. Wacker Siltronic Corp. Wacker is a computer chip manufacturer. As part of their manufacturing process, Wacker assembles chips in sterile labs, in which “clean rooms” are utilized to ensure that chips are not exposed to impurities in the air. As a result, Wacker employees were required to wear sterile lab gowns, known as “bunny suits,” while working in the clean rooms. However, Wacker would not pay its employees to put on, and take off (gowning) the bunny suits. Instead, employees were expected to use break time and lunch time to do so.

Ballaris and several other employees sued, alleging the practice violated the FLSA, and that they were entitled to wages for the time spent gowning. In response, Wacker argued that because employees were merely changing clothes, this time was excluded from the FLSA under the “Portal to Portal Act,” which excludes certain everyday activities, such as traveling to work and getting dressed for work from being covered under the FLSA.

Finding for Ballaris, the Court was unpersuaded by Wacker’s arguments, holding:

[w]hile the Portal-to-Portal Act exclude[s] ‘ordinary’ clothes-changing from compensable time, other clothes-changing that [is] not `merely a convenience to the employee’ and that [is] ‘directly related to the specific work’ remain[s] compensable…preliminary and postliminary activities remain compensable so long as “those activities are an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities.”

Because the “gowning” process was “directly related” to the employees’ work, the Court found that Wacker was liable to its employees for unpaid wages for the “gowning” time.

This background is what makes Kalin so interesting. Were the Apple employees merely “travelling to work,” or were they doing something “directly related to the specific work?” While we are obviously rooting for the employees in this case, it will be interesting to see how the Court rules given these unique facts.   We will keep you posted.

If you have been denied minimum wages or not paid time and a half for your overtime hours, or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The Spitz Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ wage rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Ohio wage law. The opportunity to meet directly with a wage and hour lawyer is just a phone call away. Your best choice is not to wait.

If you have been denied minimum wages or not paid time and a half for your overtime hours, or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The Spitz Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ wage rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Ohio wage law. The opportunity to meet directly with a wage and hour lawyer is just a phone call away. Your best choice is not to wait.

Disclaimer:
The wage and hour law materials available at the top of the page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking yourself, “should I be paid for …,” “am I entitled to overtime for …,” or “my employer isn’t paying my for …”, then your best course of action is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular employment law or FLSA issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Attorney Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.