Ninth Circuit Approves 15 Minute Wage Rounding Policy and One Minute of Uncompensated Time as De minimis

On Behalf of | May 16, 2016 | Uncategorized |

In Corbin v. Time Warner Entm’t-Advance/Newhouse P’ship, the Ninth Circuit was recently asked to determine whether hourly compensation policies at a California call center which rounded hourly time stamps to the nearest quarter hour and which required employees to spend uncompensated time logging into a computer based time program violated the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., and various California state employment laws. 

The case begins by noting that the case involved only $15.02 and one minute of time. The Ninth Circuit panel then goes on explain that a consistent and neutral rounding policy is endorsed by federal regulations. See Wage and Hour Division, Department of Labor, 26 Fed. Reg. 190, 195 (January 11, 1961) codified at 29 C.F.R. § 785.48(b). More importantly for California employers, the panel also found that in 2012, in See’s Candy Shops, Inc. v. Superior Court, 210 Cal. App. 4th 889, 903, the California Court of Appeal endorsed the federal rounding policy: “a rounding-over-time policy [that] is neutral, both facially and as applied, . . . is proper under California law because its net effect is to permit employers to efficiently calculate hours worked without imposing any burden on employees.” Therefore, the panel concluded that the district court had properly entered summary judgment in favor of the employer on this claim.

Finally, the panel also holds that a minute lost in logging into a computer program to record time is de minimis. Quoting from the Supreme Court, the panel explains “that [the] ‘failure to count’ a ‘few seconds or minutes’ can be justified by ‘industrial realities’). ‘Split-second absurdities’ in the recording of employees’ work time are ‘not justified by the actualities of working conditions or by the policy of the Fair Labor Standards Act.'” Corbin, at *24-26 (9th Cir. May 2, 2016) quoting from Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 692 (1946).

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