Monday, September 28, 2015

Ninth Circuit: Time Spent Transporting Gear is Noncompensable Under the FLSA

On September 4, 2015, in Balestrieri v. Menlo Park Fire Protection District, the Ninth Circuit ruled the time firefighters spent transporting their gear to temporary duty stations for overtime shifts was noncompensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA").

Under the FLSA, as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act, employees are not paid for time before and after work that is not "integral and indispensable" to the employee's principal duties. Since a firefighter is free to take his or her gear home and go straight to the "visiting station" for the overtime shift without having to return to the "home station" to retrieve the gear, this activity was not integral and indispensable to the firefighter's duties. By way of analogy, the court stated, "no one would expect to pay an office worker for the time it takes to shave and put on a tie.." Similarly, the District was not required to pay firefighters for time transporting their gear.

In addition, the court held payments for unused leave time were not part of the firefighters' "regular rate" of pay and should not be used to calculate overtime rates under the FLSA. It is well settled that payments for vacation buyback are not included in regular rate of pay for overtime. However, circuit courts are split on whether sick leave buyback is excluded from regular rate of pay. In Balestrieri, the parties' Memorandum of Understanding did not separate sick leave and vacation leave. The court was unable to differentiate between unused sick leave buyback and unused vacation buyback. Consequently, the issue of whether sick leave buyback should be included in an employee's regular rate of pay remains unsettled in the Ninth Circuit.