NINTH CIRCUIT RULES CERTAIN PRE-SHIFT AND POST-SHIFT ACTIVITIES COMPENSABLE UNDER FLSA & EMPLOYERS UNABLE TO CREDIT PAID MEAL PERIODS FOR SUCH ACTIVITIES
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion on Thursday, June 3, 2004 that may require some employers to reevaluate their current practices with respect to the compensation of employees who are required to perform pre-shift and post-shift duties. See Ballaris v. Wacker Siltronic Corp., --- F.3d ---, No. 02-35956 (9th Cir. June 3, 2004 ).
In Ballaris, employees filed a class action lawsuit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) alleging that their employer failed to pay them for time spent changing into and out of company-issued attire designed to minimize the contamination of “clean rooms” used in manufacturing silicon wafers for the computer industry. Although the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer, the Ninth Circuit reversed in part, finding (1) that the time spent by employees changing into and out of the attire was compensable time under the FLSA, and (2) that the employer was not entitled to credit paid meal periods as an offset against any unpaid compensable overtime. The Ninth Circuit did agree, however, with the lower court’s decision that that paid meal periods need not be included in calculating regular rates of pay.
The Ballaris decision is a departure from other federal cases addressing the concept of offsetting paid meal periods with uncompensated time worked. Employers who currently use such an offset mechanism to compensate employees who perform compensable pre-shift and post-shift activities should reconsider such practices in light of this decision.