The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a finding made by a Colorado federal court that Nelnet employees in Omaha, Lincoln and Aurora, Colorado were not entitled to pay for the time they spent booting up their computer.
More specifically, the appeals court held that the Fair Labor Standards Act de minimis exception did not apply to call center workers that helped Nelnet collect student debt.
In a relatively simple terms, the trial court found that Nelnet call center workers were performing work for the purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act when they booted up their computers and computer programs before shift. But the time they spent was 1) too hard to measure for the company and 2) too small an amount of time to count as a matter of law.
In the case, the court estimated workers lost $.48 per shift for time spent waiting for a computer and programs to boot up.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision and gave a good explanation of how the de minimis exception works. In order for the de minimis exception to apply there is a balancing test that takes into account three factors 1) ability to measure the time 2) amount of money lost and 3) whether the time not paid was part of regular duties.
It was undisputed that the time booting up time was part of regular duties. This was important for the employees. The appellate court found the defendant couldn’t argue that keeping track of time was too difficult when they had estimated it for the purpose of the case.
The court also found that the losses for the employees were not negligible. The court noted that $.48 per shift works out to $125 per year which is a meaningful amount of money for employees who were earning $13.50 per hour.