As you may know, I am a big student of working time cases and often blog about them. One of my favorite categories of such cases are the so-called “dog cases.” These are cases where workers (usually police officers) seek compensation for time spent grooming and caring for their canine companions. A few decades ago, there was a rash of such cases, which universally (if memory serves) went against the employees. Well, what goes around comes around. A group of workers for a private security have sued, claiming compensation for this time. The case is entitled Barnett et al. v. Aquila Services Corp. and was filed in federal court in the District of Colorado.
The plaintiffs, all security officers, claimed they had training and handling duties for their dogs. They state they were compelled to take the dogs to and from their assigned work sites and assist them in performing their security duties. They also claim that they had to house, train and care for the dogs after their shifts ended. They were paid a salary, instead of hourly, and claim that the employer did not keep track of their working hours.
The named plaintiff alleged he worked forty-four (44) hours per week and spent almost an additional four hours training the dog and exercising the animal, which he claims was an integral and indispensable component of his duties. The other plaintiffs have made similar allegations. One of these workers who complained about not receiving overtime had his position eliminated and maintains he was fired in retaliation for those complaints.
One plaintiff made other allegations. He was a security officer and alleges he was not paid for meals and breaks that he could not take because of his work duties. He also claims that he was not compensated for the travel time between client locations, time that, under the FLSA, he should have been paid for (if he did the travel). He claims he was prevented by the Company from recording, as hours worked, any time other than that he spent at a job site.
Most of these cases lost because the courts ruled the time was de minimis. That defense does not often prevail but in these cases it did. The issue is whether these activities (if not deemed de minimis) were integral and indispensable to the primary job of the employees. My view is they were not, as courts have also ruled over the years. On the issue of non-payment for travel time between work sites, that is a clear violation.
At least they’ll win that one…