Cases & Deals

Society for Human Resource Management files amicus brief in support of district court FLSA decision

Clients Society for Human Resource Management

On behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Jones Day filed a brief Amici Curiae in support of the Appellee for affirmance of a district court decision involving the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. In a victory for the employer community, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision, ruling that time spent by employees traveling on employer-provided transportation between an airport security gate and a secure construction site, as well as time spent going through security screening, is not compensable under the FLSA.

The Appellants were construction workers employed by the Appellee, a subcontractor on a construction project at Miami International Airport. In order to reach the work site, Appellants were required to present identification and pass through a single security gate on the tarmac. The employer provided a free courtesy shuttle from the employee parking lot to the security gate. Appellants also had the option to use pay parking, public transportation, or other means to arrive at the security gate. Since FAA regulations prohibit unauthorized vehicles in the secured tarmac area, all employees were required to ride in the authorized courtesy shuttle from the security gate to the worksite, irregardless of how they arrived at the security gate. Supervisors did not give employees work instructions while riding the shuttle. The employees did not perform any labor while waiting for or riding the courtesy shuttle, they did not carry any tools on the courtesy shuttle (other than safety equipment), and employees were not paid for their time riding the courtesy shuttle. The Appellants brought suit under the FLSA seeking compensation for their time riding the courtesy shuttle and passing through the security gate. The district court granted the defendant-Appellee's Motion for Summary Judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

With regard to the Appellants' travel time on the courtesy shuttle, the Court of Appeals agreed with the district court's analysis of section 254(a) of the FLSA, as well as the Department of Labor's interpretation, which the Court found to be persuasive although not entitled to Chevron deference. The Court of Appeals explained that "[t]he plain language of section 254(a) excludes 'walking, riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activity or activities.' The [A]ppellants' claim regarding the time spent on the employer vehicles both before and after the security check point fits squarely within this statutory exception, and the administrative interpretation of the statute also specifically addresses the question of transportation to and from the work site." Regarding the time spent passing through security screening, the Court held that it was not "integral and indispensable" to a principal activity because it did not benefit the employer, it was required by the FAA. The Court of Appeals explained that the "integral and indispensable" test is not a but-for test of causal necessity: "if mere causal necessity was sufficient to constitute a compensable activity, all commuting would be compensable because it is a practical necessity for all workers to travel from their homes to their jobs."

Bonilla, et al. v. Baker Concrete Constr., Inc., No. 06-12515, No. 02-23286-CV-AMS (11th Cir. May 30, 2007)