The Second Circuit recently affirmed a district court’s decision dismissing security guards’ claims for minimal amounts of allegedly uncompensated work time. In doing so, the Court reiteratedthe general principle applied by federal courts that “"[w]hen the matter in issue concerns only a few seconds or minutes of work beyond the scheduled working hours, such trifles may be disregarded. . . . It is only when an employee is required to give up a substantial measure of his time and effort that compensable working time is involved." Albrecht v. Wackenhut Corp., 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 10973 at * 3 (2d Cir. N.Y. May 28, 2010) quoting Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 692 (1946).
In Albrecht, the security guards alleged that time spent obtaining and returning their firearms and radios pre and post-shift constituted a “principal activity” under the FLSA, and thus was compensable. The court held that the Plaintiffs failed to controvert evidence in the record that such “arming up” and “arming down” involved only 30-90 seconds, and thus was de minimis. Id. at * 5.
The Court acknowledged Plaintiffs’ argument that a requirement that non-exempt employees be present and available “15 minutes before the start of a scheduled shift” could give rise to a viable claim under the FLSA, but held that this claim was not properly alleged in the original complaint, which was limited to the time related to arming up and down. Id. at * 5-6.
Despite this favorable result, employers should be conservative in deeming mandatory time spent on premises to be non-compensable as a preliminary and/or de minimis activity. In fact, the USDOL generally does not recognize the de minimus defense.