Unofficial off-the-clock rule spells class-action trouble

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees are supposed to be compensated for all work performed, whether they’re clocked in or not.

But many employers use computer systems to track time. What happens if there is an unwritten rule among supervisors that workers must come in early to set up and prepare for work before they’re allowed to log into the time-keeping system? That’s a recipe for a class-action FLSA lawsuit.

Recent case: Several former employees who worked as call center agents for an online retailer claimed that their call center supervisors required them to arrive well before the official start of their shift. They used this time to get updates and company news as well as to log into their computer terminals. Only then could they finally open up the time-keeping application. That way, the moment their shift began, calls started coming in.

The agents claimed they were penalized if they were even one minute late logging in and were then told to come in earlier still.

The employees sued, and requested class-action certification. The judge granted the motion temporarily so discovery in the case could begin.

They will now have a chance to prove their allegations, specifically that their supervisors had a policy requiring early arrival. (Norris, et al. v. Bluestem Brands, et al., DC MN, 2018)