Company should pay for boot-up time


My company recently installed an "E-Labor" system that requires employees to clock in or out electronically. At first, the company kept some computers on, allowing us to sign in the moment we arrived. That's important because we are paid from the time we log in to the system.

But recently the company removed those computers and now makes us sign in from our individual terminals. But they take five to 10 minutes to boot up.

Since we're nonexempt employees and must be paid for all hours worked, shouldn't the company pay us for the boot-up time?

- Not Paid to Boot

Over a week, 10 minutes of daily waiting adds up to a substantial 50 minutes of unpaid office time. And yes, the company has to pay you for that time, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The rule is that if an employee has to log in to perform a job, and if that time is "measurable and performed on a regular basis," the worker must be paid for it, the department said.

This issue surfaces in other industries as well. For example, janitorial-service workers who do prep work such as taking out equipment and assembling supplies have to be paid for that time, too. Your boot-up time is your prep time.

Carrie Masen-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday in New York.

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