Companies Sued For Not Paying For Time Spent Booting Up A Computer

from the labor-law-fun dept

Gizmodo points us to the fascinating news that there is a growing number of lawsuits from hourly employees suing employers for not paying them for the time they sit waiting for their computers to boot up in the morning. The article also mentions time waiting for a computer to shut down, but I’m not sure how that should matter. Once you start that process, can’t you just leave? I can certainly sympathize that the bootup process can take quite some time — especially on older Windows machines, but this hardly seems like lawsuit material. As some have pointed out, for many of these employees, they’re unlikely to be doing work while the machine is booting up in the first place. The lawyers filing these lawsuits claim that many workers do get started before the computer boots up, but if the employees really are upset about this issue, why not just decide to not start working until the computer has booted up. Problem solved.

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Comments on “Companies Sued For Not Paying For Time Spent Booting Up A Computer”

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Phillip Vector (user link) says:

When I used to work at a call center (Several actually, but they all had the same policy), I had to be taking calls exactly at the start time. Every time, I had to start up the computer (they don’t like them running when no one was using them) and it would take around 5-10 mins. for bootup.

That’s around 40 mins. a week. 3 weeks and we are looking at 2 hours. 34 hours a year (not that people lasted that long anyway).

If you didn’t get in early to start your computer, you lost your job for not being on the phones at the start of your shift.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

No. You get to file a lawsuit and keep your job. If you are on location and the power is out, you still get payed.

Besides, real companies have been using start up and shut down scripts for YEARS so you DON’T have to pay someone to do that. If they failed to do so, their loss.

Bottom line, you are told to start your shift at a certain time. If the site isn’t ready, you’re already on the clock so too friggin bad.

That’s how it works in the U.S. anyways.

JJ says:

Re: Re:


The policy where I work is that I must be logged in to my phone and computer and ready to work at exactly my start time. Meaning I have to come into work early to log into my computer and all of my applications so that I can start taking calls when I am scheduled.

Yes, that is only about 5-10 minutes, but I am NOT getting paid for this time. That means the company potentially does not pay me for 50 minutes per week equal to about 43 hours a year. That is over one week of unpaid time per year.

It may seem an insignificant amount of time, however Federal law states you must be paid for the time you work. It is work, albeit pretty lightweight, to come to a desk, turn on your computer and login to multiple applications and phone system. One week of my life doing this for my employer’s benefit at no pay.

Nick says:

What kind of system

This suit must be based on some system where you have to wait for the computer to come on before you can clock in??? Everyplace I have worked in my life has had either a separate computer that is just for time clock, or we write our time in manually and a supervisor signs off on it. Seems like a little too much whining to me…. Just like Mike said, don’t start working until you clock in… Problem solved.

Cmdr Oberon says:

Re: What kind of system

Unfortunately, labor laws don’t agree with
your sentiment. If you require someone to come in to
work at a certain time, that is the time
at which you must begin paying them. If they
have to jump through hoops for half-an-hour
before they can be ‘on the clock’, then the
employer needs to pay for that time.

Likewise on shutting down — if the employee
is required to stick around to make sure the
machine powers off, that’s time being spent
doing work for the employer.

Even if the work is “turn on the computer and
wait for 30 minutes”, that’s still work.

The employee should be paid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What kind of system

We don’t want to encourage employees to walk away with an unfinished logoff, also. If the process gets hung up (saying, waiting for notepad to close because it wants to know if you want to save your file) then it becomes a security risk. Anyone could walk up, cancel the interrupted shutdown, and they’re on your network. Paying for the extra 5-10 minutes to shut down a computer on your network is probably a reasonable security measure to take.

Les says:

Re: What kind of system

Don’t know where you worked, but The contact center I worked at was as Phil Vector noted. NO time clocks. These are obsolete. You clock in on your own computer using the time clock program. You need to start the computer.. wait.. go through a routine, get the time clock program up and running, and, since several people are loading it on the network at the same time… it may take a while…..tick tock… and then you can clock in. Not simply booting up your home/office desk computer. I have seem it take 5-120 minutes easy.

Timothy Reiland (user link) says:

Re: What kind of system

Whiners? Because they want to be paid for all work that is required of them, as far as I’m concerned, pushing the power button on your computer IS work, and the federal Dept. of Labor agrees with me. go look it up if you don’t believe me. You sound like the whiner to me…God forbid people be paid for something they have to do before they can do their job.

JohnW says:

One presumes that the workers value their time

I certainly value mine. If one of my consulting customers expends my time in this way, they certainly pay for it.

So, the employees come in and waste half an hour of their valuable time for their employer’s benefit. (One also presumes that the employers in question benefit from using Vista as opposed to XP or some competent GNU/Linux set up.)

Let’s review this, they come in to work and spend a half hour for their employer’s benefit. (Yes, I did mention that above, the tone of your comments suggest you have not examined the full economic considerations here, so I am being deliberately pedantic, and deliberately snide, to tell the truth.) Of course they should get paid for that time. If the employer wants productivity during that time, the employers should address the issue. Simplest way to go would be, of course, to leave the machine on overnight (or, if the issue is log delay rather than boot up, then they could just lock up the workstation each evening). OTOH, they could shift to XP and lose little or no familiar system behavior only it would boot way faster.

However, the idea I personally like best is to have all the systems set to “wake on LAN’ and just force boot them well before standard arrival time. This would allow the employees to shut down in the evening but not have to waste half an hour each morning.

I have to say, I have been reading your site for a long time and have almost always found your comments interesting and insightful. This time, however, I find myself very disappointed. Employees are not slaves and their/our/your time is valuable and if employers who pay for that time waste it, it should be a cost to the employer. Even in bad times, employers are rarely doing them/me/you a favor paying us. If they are, they will not be in business for long. We all are employed because somebody believes that we bring in more than we cost. The same is, or should be, true for the effect of the physical plant. In this case, the physical plant reduces the effectiveness of the time purchased by the employer. The employer chose to use Vista, even if only passively, they are still responsible for the decision and should be responsible for the consequences of that choice. The employees are, IMO, right to sue and you are wrong to diss them.

Don says:

Re: One presumes that the workers value their time

I do not know what kind of equipment you use but 1/2 hour for boot up is not the least bit realistic. If your PC takes over 1 to 2 minutes to bootup get your IT something is wrong. This amounts to 10 minutes a week, 40 a month, 8 hours a year, maybe $80 dollars – come on America is sue happy.

Jessica says:

Re: Re: One presumes that the workers value their time

You have obviously never worked in a call center. They’re usually full of extremely old computers that were marginal at the time of purchase. Also, you’re ignoring all the comments here saying it’s not just the boot time. It’s logging into all the applications required before you can be on the clock. Opening email, logging into databases, and then finally logging into an auto-dialer on a slow network can easily take 10-15 minutes.

Thomas says:

Re: Re: One presumes that the workers value their time

Don. .
“I do not know what kind of equipment you use but 1/2 hour for boot up is not the least bit realistic. If your PC takes over 1 to 2 minutes to bootup get your IT something is wrong. This amounts to 10 minutes a week, 40 a month, 8 hours a year, maybe $80 dollars – come on America is sue happy.”

The bigger problem is with employers using this time to track schedule adherence. I personally don’t mind not getting paid the $80 I might be missing out in the few minutes a day it takes to get my workstation going… however when that time is used to track my adherence, that is where I see a problem. That is also why I would like to see this lawsuit succeed.

TG says:

Re: Re: One presumes that the workers value their time

Don: “I do not know what kind of equipment you use but 1/2 hour for boot up is not the least bit realistic. If your PC takes over 1 to 2 minutes to bootup get your IT something is wrong.”

I can tell you exactly what kind of equipment takes 30 minutes to boot up: Windows on a corporate network.
At my last job, the sheer amount of configuration scripts, domain handling, program updates, antivirus updates, etc. that were included in the start-up scripts took 15 minutes to process, 20-25 minutes if you had one of the P3 computers.
That’s NOT counting logging onto the domain, starting the local desktop and waiting 2-3 minutes for it to become responsive, nor counting opening the 5-6 applications you need in order to start work proper.

Some employers realize this and they put the time-logging on a server so you are only on the clock once you’ve logged onto the domain. The employer who doesn’t pay you for the time you are at work is a bastard and needs to be sued.
Even if you’re sweeping the floor, or if your employer tells you to go stand in a corner all day and do nothing, you are still AT WORK and should be paid for your time.

If the employer is not willing to pay you for booting your machine, he’ll just have to hire someone to walk around the office half an hour early and turn everything on, or have IT make a wake-up script.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Once you start that process, can’t you just leave?

Well, it makes absolutely no sense to just leave after driving all the way to work and turning on your PC. You seriously think waiting for a PC to boot is an opportunity to drive all the way back home?! Did you even attempt to think this through?!

why not just decide to not start working until the computer has booted up

Well, I think waiting for your employer’s PC to boot is work. It’s certainly not my time. I certainly would not choose to drive to work and wait for my employer’s PCs to boot on my day off. Would you? I seriously doubt you would. And since it is your employer who wants the PC booted, it should be the entity paying to boot it.

but this hardly seems like lawsuit material.

Your argument is that because the damages appear small that it isn’t worthy. But they are not small in the aggregate. And that’s the problem. Employers think they can get away with not paying because they’re only scamming a large number of people a little bit. And because it’s a “little bit” people like you equate it as being near frivolous. If you don’t mind small scams, feel free to send me your credit card information and I’ll steal just a little bit each month. Hardly enough to sue over. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.

Strofcon says:

Re: Re:

Just a small correction, the “can’t you just start that process and leave” comment was directed at the complaint that employees have to wait for the computer to shut down, not boot up. This is much more valid point of the article, compared to the rest of it which is fairly out-of-touch with the average employee’s mindset.

Joe says:

Re: Re:

“‘Once you start that process, can’t you just leave?’

Well, it makes absolutely no sense to just leave after driving all the way to work and turning on your PC. You seriously think waiting for a PC to boot is an opportunity to drive all the way back home?! Did you even attempt to think this through?!”

Clearly he was talking about shutting down the computer.

Sean says:

Re: Wow.

Ima Fish, regarding, “Once you start the process, can’t you just leave?”

The author of the article is regarding once you start shutting down a computer, do you really have to stay for it to shut down? Did you even attempt to think through what you wrote, because it is so stupid, so incredibly childish. Maybe you can learn a lesson, read the article before you comment – basically don’t open your mouth when nothing has any value.

Chrissy says:

Re: disagree

“but this hardly seems like lawsuit material.”

Your entire statement is silly. The “little bit” at a time, but the large amount of people they are scamming comment is ridcules. Are you telling me, you spend 100% of your time AT work ONLY doing work and nothing else? You dont chat with coworkers for 5 minutes? You dont take a smoke/pee/relax break? You dont get up to refill your coffee mug? You dont go outside to get something from your car? You dont take 3 mintues to answer a personal call about dinner/doc apts/etc.
I’m sure you do. Hello…you get paid to do that.
Thats so frivilous. Waiting for the computer to boot??? My god! Think BIG picture? What next? Are you going to ask your employer to pay for the time it takes to drive to work?
I hardely think waiting 10 minutes (which i’m sure is NOT 10 mins…rather more like 6 or 7)can justify anything you do on the job that ISNT really work.

PixelPusher220 says:

Fedex example

Fedex drivers are paid to drive and deliver their packages. Are they paid while gassing up the truck before their shift?

I’ll bet good money someone else makes sure the trucks are gassed up and ready to go *before* the drivers get to them.

The employers should rightly pay for employees to be ‘ready’ to go when the day starts, whether prepping meeting materials, fueling vehicles, or booting up the computer you need to do your job. The ‘wake on LAN’ option seems to me the best compromise, so the computers are off when not in use, but on and ready for use when employees arrive for work.

If there’s value in having your employees ‘ready to go’ at a certain time, then there’s value in making sure that happens. Making the employees do it on their own, unpaid, time is a legitimate complaint of the employees.

Josh says:

Mike, I don’t think you’ve ever worked in a call center. Speaking as someone who has done so, I completely agree with the employees. Its not necessarily just the boot up time, but also the myriad of things you were required to do before you were “ready to take the first call.” This is what my morning was like when I did and my “start” time was 9:00 AM
8:45 Get in 15 minutes early, sit down at my desk, turn on computer
8:47 Computer fully booted into Windows XP.
8:48 Open up Lotus Notes. System effectively locked from doing anything else useful for at least 3-5 minutes as LotusNotes bloatware loads.
8:51 Check for any alerts/notes/instructions that came in through email (required to do before we started our shift)
8:53 Launch and login to CRM database app that we recorded tech support calls in
8:55 Launch and login to team chat application
8:56 Launch and login to Rules/Procedures/Tech Tips/What to do if X happens knowledge base
8:58 Take a breath, sip of Mountain Dew, bite of muffin
8:59 Login to the phone (This is what they track to where I start getting paid)
8:59 and 1 second – First call starts and have a customer on the phone
Can’t sign in to the phone first, we weren’t allowed to sit in “idle” for more than 30 seconds. We had to have all or at least most of those applications open before the customer was on the phone, otherwise we couldn’t do our job by collecting their information. Required to collect their information for *every* call. Multiple calls monitored a week and information we put into the CRM app checked and matched with each call.
Judging from almost every other tech support agent I’ve talked to, that was far and wide the normal morning for other tech agents and other people working in call centers.
I was not paid for those 15 minutes every day. Over the course of a year, thats over 60 hours.

hegemon13 says:


“The article also mentions time waiting for a computer to shut down, but I’m not sure how that should matter. Once you start that process, can’t you just leave?”

One of my former employers had a policy that they would write you up if your computer and all peripherals were not powered off. So, if you left and the computer did not shut down properly, you got a nasty note in your file. I didn’t work there for long.

However, this is a pointless lawsuit. The FLSA allows employee hours to be round to the nearest quarter-hour. Certainly, boot-up and shut-down time falls within that. This only has a chance if there is a state law that is stricter than the FLSA.

meatlump says:

Re: Nope

Regarding the FLSA and rounding of start time to the nearest quarter hour.

This rounding is allowed, unless it consistently favors the employer. So, if it takes 5 min to get started and 5 min to shut down, the employer can not make you round to 9:00 am and 5:00 PM each day.

The rounding works well when employees start at different times (I got in early, I’ll start 20 min early, etc.)

As to the main point, covered nicely in other comments, when I worked in a glass plant we were required to wear special safety gear. We were paid for the time to suit up and to put away our safety gear.

Lori says:

Re: Nope

I don’t think you are understanding the rounding rule. The following are examples of correctly rounding to the nearest 15 minutes.

Remember 1/2 of 15 = 7.5 or 7 minutes and 30 seconds.

if you start working between 7:37:31AM and 7:52:30AM round to 7:45AM

if you start working between 7:52:31AM and 8:07:30AM round to 8:00AM

if you start working between 8:07:31AM and 8:22:30AM round to 8:15AM

The key word is nearest. What the law says is that it is legal to round the the nearest 15 minutes as long as it does not always benefit the employer. This means that if the employer rounds forward, he must also round backward.

Thom says:

Over your head Mike

Yep, this one went right over your head Mike (and you too Nick). This is for all those employees who are hourly or who are literally clocked by their time at the keyboard rather than their time at work. You’re hired for a 9-5 only you have to be in the office for an 8:30-5:30 because the employer expects you to get the computer up and going before you are on the clock and paid. That’s the employer’s responsibility, he should pay you, do it himself, or hire someone just for that purpose – not force you to do it and wait off the clock.

Odds are though that this lawsuit covers worse actions than this. Imagine a call center (or other) where the computer systems or networks go down frequently and stay down for extended periods. The employer loses 1-2 hours of time per employee per day because of this. Instead of spending money to fix his computer system he tells all his employees that they have to stay as long as it takes to get their eight hours. On a good day they’re all there nine to get paid for eight. On a worse day they’re all there twelve to get paid for eight. Some days they’re there all day and don’t get paid because the computers never come up.

Yeah, sucks to be the employer, but if can’t maintain his system he shouldn’t be in the business. It’s not fair to expect employees to sit unpaid because of his shortcomings.

bobArlington (user link) says:

u must have a good computer

Don’t get me started on boot up. I have a whole set of things I do while the C drive goes whirl and whirl. Then there is the time wasted while waiting to see if the firewall will let u go where u want to go.

But shut down? U mean it is possible to walk away from the computer during shut down? Who clicks the OK button on all the error messages adobe causes? What about the “blah blah application has stopped responding, do you want to end now.”. Who clicks the yes button.

Ah my flash drive for a computer that shuts down correctly

BobV says:

I have to say I agree with JOhnW for the most part. Not about the vista thing, you can’t just blame it on vista, I’ve had the same issues on other systems some related to database, some due to the OS and others due to network issues.

I need to be at work at 745. If I clock in at 747 I lose that 15 minutes. Thats $3.50 before taxes. Thats 1 days lunch or gas for a few days. Many companies will not let you clock in early since that counts for overtime. So if I have a slow system that I need to use to clock in I need to come in early so I can clock in on time to get my full 40 a week.

It must be nice to be able to say well just don’t work before you clock in. Thats not the real issue its the paycheck that matters. I am barely scarping by as is and that loss of 3-4 hours a week can mean the difernce between being able to order pizza on friday night for the kids or telling em we don’t have enough money so we’ll have do it next week.

Jessica says:

I agree with Josh and Phillip. Working in a call center, if you’re expected on the phone at an exact time, there is usually an excessively long lead in to that time which is unpaid. The call center I worked at required us to be making calls at 7am. In order to do that, you had to be there, and getting things started by at least 6:50. And of course we weren’t paid until we signed into the autodialer, which could only happen after every other required program was up and running. If you weren’t early, you’d get a “tardy” and too many of those meant you were fired. 10 unpaid minutes a day really starts to add up. Making a separate clock in system (my current employer has a card swipe method) would solve the problem of having to wait for the system to boot to start getting paid.

Ragaboo (profile) says:


Mike, I usually agree with you, but this time you’re way off. It may be a “small matter,” but it’s the principle of the matter. Booting up and getting their computers ready is PART of their job. If it isn’t, then they should’t have to do it. It’s certainly not personal time, I’ll tell you that much, and it certainly does add up in the end, as another reader pointed out.

If the computers take too long too boot up, and the employer has an issue with employees being on the clock while they set up the tools they need to do their jobs, then the employer should buy faster computers or allow employees to leave their computers booted up and ready overnight.

The bottom line: If I’m at work at the time my employer tells me I need to be there to do something that needs to be done to do my job…I’m damn well getting paid for that. That’s called work.

Also, Ima Fish, you misread his “Once you start that process, can’t you just leave?” comment. He was referring to shutting down, not booting up.

U dont get rich workin for da man says:

Greedy Employers

It is, and always has been, standard operating procedure for employers to take advantage of those least capable of defending themselves. This abhorrent practice is tolerated by government and unions to some extent, but it certainly does get attention from time to time. This case seems a bit silly compared to other more egregious situations, but it does have cetain entertainment qualities.

jeannie says:

It shouldn’t matter if the employee has no other work to do while the computer boots up. If part of the job requires using a computer the employer is responsible to pay for that to be done. And although it isn’t much time per person, in call centers with hundreds of employees it does become significant. These are hourly employees, they aren’t being paid for piece work or on the other hand paid on salary. There have been quite a few class action suits for similar things, like workers being asked to change into clothes required for the job on their own time, and employers generally just count on low-pay employees not bothering or being able to afford to sue. If employers don’t want their employees stealing time from them, they have to behave honorably with their workers.

PaulT (profile) says:

Yeah, this is a straightforward thing for anyone who’s worked in a heavily monitored office (be it a call centre or whatever). Call centres need you to be *available for your first call* at your start time, not merely at your desk. It usually takes time for the numerous apps required to start, so many employers are effectively stealing 15-20 mins from the start of a person’s shift by requiring them to do this.

As for leaving, well it’s not as critical in most places, but some employers will dock pay if the PC’s not shut down correctly at the end of the shift, and refuse to pay overtime – if the PC’s not logged off they can pretend you’re trying to screw them on overtime as there’s no record of when you really logged off.

All in all, an employee might be losing a week’s worth of working hours plus some overtime benefits because the employers expect them to do this. My philosophy has always been that if you’re *expected* to do something as part of your job (such as ready the PC for use before you can take calls), you should be paid for it. Most of these employers won’t think twice about docking pay because you took an extra 90 seconds break for lunch, it’s about time the same standards were applied to them.

You might argue “don’t take those jobs”, but in the current economic environment those jobs are the only ones available in many places. That doesn’t mean that it’s OK to screw employees.

Joseph says:

time for work

What about time driving to and from work. It’s “work related”, because it’s time out of my personal times to get in my car and drive an hour to work, and an hour back. What about the gas that it takes me to get to and from work. Should that be reimbursed? The tolls? My work clothes?

Can you see where this is going?

Phillip Vector (user link) says:

Re: time for work

There is a difference between sitting at your desk waiting for something to boot up and driving yourself to work.

1) You can stop off and get some breakfast or go visit your sick aunt before getting to work.
2) It’s your decision to find the job that is an hour away, so it’s your decision on how much gas you pay to get to work. Likewise, it isn’t the decision of the worker to decide to start up apps and such so he can work.
3) Tolls? See #2.
4) Work clothes usually are reimbursed or they are your own clothes. I’ve worked in some bad places and never had to buy my own uniform that I couldn’t take home and use it elsewhere (suit and tie). Heck, when I used to work for a garden company, we had branded shirts that I usually don’t wear, but they gave them to us for free.

Your Boss says:

Re: time for work

Hey Joseph, from now on when you come to work in the morning you need to stop at Mocha Joes and get me a cup of Mocha Mocha CafeChino. I don’t want the stuff that’s been sitting there all morning though so tell them to brew a fresh pot. It’ll only take 15-20 minutes so leave early, this is off the clock. Thanks, I knew you wouldn’t mind. Oh, and by the way, sorry that keeps you from hanging around to see your kid off to school. Those are the breaks though. Mmmmm, love that Mocha Mocha CafeChino. Your Boss.

Anonymous Coward says:

From the article;

I can certainly sympathize that the bootup process can take quite some time — especially on older Windows machines

From JohnW;

OTOH, they could shift to XP and lose little or no familiar system behavior only it would boot way faster.

I find the two comments above interesting. My current system is still running Windows 98SE. I don’t allow useless programs to add themselves to the boot process. From a cold boot to when the Desktop is ready to use takes about 30-45 seconds. Every XP machine I’ve ever used takes a minimum of at least 2-3 minutes, with many taking as long as 7-10 minutes.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My XP pro machine takes about 50 seconds. And I would say 25 seconds there is BIOS stuff. After those 50 seconds I am in Windows and can do stuff. It will be a hair slower initially than it would about 20 seconds later as it is still running post-windows startup stuff, but I can still do anything normally.
Although, I do acknowledge that my computer is a lot higher geared than most, being a video gamer (4GB of RAM =P). So I can EASILY understand longer boot times. Especially since all computers I work on for people, and the one here at work, take longer.

I recall my Win98SE being pretty quick too. It also took about a minute with the processing power of the day. Back when 512MB of RAM was a ton. =)

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

My XP pro machine takes about 50 seconds. And I would say 25 seconds there is BIOS stuff. After those 50 seconds I am in Windows and can do stuff. It will be a hair slower initially than it would about 20 seconds later as it is still running post-windows startup stuff, but I can still do anything normally.

it’s not just boot up. it’s also logging into email and crm programs (not every place is active directory end to end). at some call center jobs you support multiple accounts and you have to use multiple customer data systems.

one account i worked helpdesk for, we had to make VPN connections (RSA keyfobs and everything) into the customers network (a bank!) before starting any other application.

on another account, we had two PCs, one on the call center network for our email, chat, and ticketing system, and one on the client’s network for connecting to and administering the customers’ servers and PCs.

in these situations, “logging in” can easily be a 15-20 minute ordeal.

Timothy Reiland (user link) says:

Re: Re:

The employee has absolutely no say in how long it takes for a company computer to boot up, so suggesting a certain OS is completely absurd.

When you work at a call center they have their computers locked down so tight that it is insane. At the call center where I work, if the person before me “shut down” vs. “logging off”, then it literally takes 15 minutes for that computer to get to the “log on” screen. The reason for this length in time is because of all the databases and admin modules that are loaded during the “boot up” process. All of this time should be paid for.

The company I work for was sued for doing the same thing some are saying is menial. Now we are able to clock in to our phone, then wait for everything to start up, then start taking calls. This is the sole purpose for a law-suit. Whereas you couldn’t do that before, after the lawsuit you could because they changed the way you clock in.

I clock in right at my scheduled time and if it takes me 15 minutes after the time I was supposed to be there, then it takes 15 minutes and there is nothing the employer can do because they now know what happens when they screw over the wrong person. They go to court.

Aww…punishment by law does work.

Joshua (profile) says:

I start even earlier...

Forget waiting for my computer to boot up. I start charging my employer the instant I get out of my car in the parking lot. Reason being its a good 15 minute walk from the parking lot to the building, then about 5 minutes to get to my floor, thats not counting if security stops me for not having a badge that day. Of course my work does not have a problem with this policy since its cheaper to pay us lowly hourly employees an extra 20 minutes than it is to get someone to shuttle us from the parking lot to the building. I don’t how ever continue to charge them once I leave my office for the day.

I can see the booting up process, but not the shutting down process being paid by the employer. Forget WHEN I’m actually working(after boot up), the boot time is time I’m not enabled to do my own stuff therefore it is company time.

That would be like saying I don’t get paid while waiting for code to compile… As I’m just watching a compiler log and not really ‘working’.

Steve R. (profile) says:

This is work Related Time

It amazes me how the worker bees are watched by management to assure that they are not ripping off the company. A minor slip-up and they are fired. Yet when management looses $$$ billions of the company’s money, they are not held accountable, and they still get paid $$$ millions. A clear double standard.

I bet the heads of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were paid while waiting for their private jet(s) to “boot-up” and “shut-down”.

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

What about walking?

I worked as a contract technical writer for a huge pharma company in the Midwest. Since I was a contractor, I was required to park in the designated contractor parking lot. From there to my desk was a 14 minute walk – each way.

I found out a couple of weeks into the job that all the other contractors in my area charged our contract house for the 28 minutes spent walking back and forth to our cars each day, so I started adding that on to my timecard as well.

The very last week I was there I found out that since I rode a motorcycle I could have parked in the designated motorcycle parking lot that was 2 city blocks closer to my desk… oh well, I needed the exercise, I guess.

jonnyq says:

I agree with everyone else here: you’re required to be there and push the button – you get paid for it.

Anyway, though. To those complaining about long bootup times and shut down procedured: suspend to disk (hibernate). Suspend the whole session to disk… faster bootup times, so waiting for programs to shut down and the computer is OFF.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good! I am glad they will get paid for work....

I have worked in call centers and they all required the PC to be booted up before the shift started so we could take calls as soon as our shift started. My PC took 15 minutes to boot or 1.25 hours/week = 62 hours/year. That would be like working almost 7 days for free.

You have your employer require you to work 7 days for free and let me know how that works for you.

theodore says:

huge statutory damages in most states on west coast

As a former legal eagle we are talking big statutory damages. often if one is underpaid by any ascertainable amount you are owed 30 to 60 days wages in states I’ve looked up; plus the actual wages they beat you out of plus attorneys fees. This is likely millions of dollars in these cases. employers beware.

Sworkhard says:

Re: unions

Unions wouldn’t help at all. Intead of an employer not paying you the money, the union would take it, and if something like this occurs, instead of you getting the money, the union does. at lot of good that does you. Unions just make it it more costly to run a business, and make it virtually impossible for a person to move from one department of a company to another.

Neil (SM) says:

Paid for my time

I agree with the sentiment that time is valuable to an employee. If my employer expects me to be in the office, they are going to pay me for that. If I’m unable to get work done because I have to wait 10-20 minutes for the employer’s computer to boot Monday morning, I’m certainly still going to bill the employer for that time.

Mark Regan (user link) says:

Wow, there is a LOT of interest in THIS subject

When an employee walks in the door of his/her place of employment at the scheduled time and is willing and ready to work, he should be paid starting at that time, not when the assembly line begins rolling, or when the paint shop sends over items to be boxed, or when some computer needs to be booted up.

Same thing with quitting time. If the employee is liable for anything done on the computer to which he/she is assigned, they cannot leave until the computer is properly turned off and shuts down. Otherwise, I could come along and stop the shutdown process after they have left and use their account to access accounts. Therefore, they should be paid until their job is complete, not at some arbitrarily scheduled time.

I assure you that the executives get paid starting when they walk in the door and are available to work, even if their incoming mail bin is empty and their phone never rings and the secretary is out sick and nobody visits and there is no work pending. He just sits there earning money. Why should it be any different for a computer operator or assembly line employee?

What if the computer dies during the shift? Does this mean the company doesn’t have to pay the worker for sitting there until it is fixed? Or how about if the electricity goes out? Or the assembly line breaks? The law says to pay ’em. But the rich folks who get paid hundreds of millions to manage the company get paid MORE if they can screw the little people out of what they have coming, so they DO.

Dem0n 1 (profile) says:

Print shop

Many years ago I worked in a print shop as an offset press operator. Before you left at night you cleaned up the press, if you didn’t stop the presswork early enough to clean and lube the press, then you still had to finish, but it was off the clock unless the boss had you finish a press run, then it was on the company dime. In the morning you have to set up the press before you could do anything and were on the clock as soon as you came through the door.
If setup time and shutdown time were not included as work, I don’t think they would be able to find a skilled press operator. They could get someone just out of high school perhaps, but the productivity and quality would be dismal.

mslade says:

I'm coming in a little late here....

…but none the less, my business partner gave me some very simple advice a while ago, and it rings particularly true here:

“Ask yourself if you would be doing this if your client didn’t ask you to. If not, bill them for it.”

These employees would not be booting up their computers and waiting on it if they weren’t employees of the company in question, thus they should be paid for it. Seems open and shut to me.

Ex employee says:

Re: Re:

I agree… those of you saying “but my system boots up in 50 seconds” obviously never worked with bottom basement computers and having to log into a network at the same time as 400 other people in the same building, not to mention starting up MS Outlook, Excel, 3 separate user databases, call monitoring software, and several other things BEFORE you can start work. Unless you ever do this on a daily basis, then STFU and be happy that you don’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Some of you people do not work in Enterprise Environments where corporate IT staff are running boot scripts on your PCs that check Service Pack levels, software patch release levels, etc… My PC takes over 5 minutes to boot. I come in turn on the PC, put in my password and then go get coffee, go to the restroom, and then still have to wait.

Cubicle 99 says:

A bit of balance

Everyone here seems to think that mere staff should be paid for twiddling their thumbs! That’s ridiculous. You are being paid to WORK, not sit on your fat ass daydreaming. If your computer’s not booted up, then you’re not working and SHOULDN’T get paid. Mike is absolutely right.

Your employer doesn’t pay your lunch hour now, do they?

It’s really simple, people. Think about it.

perilisk says:

Why does it really matter? I get why it pisses people off, but in a practical sense, what’s the big deal?

You work a certain amount of time (X), you get paid a certain amount of money (Y). Just because some of it is officially “paid” and some isn’t doesn’t magically change that fact. If your hourly rate nominally happens to be higher than Y/X, the worst you can say is that the rate of pay advertised is fraudulent. But unless you’re not capable of basic math, it’s easy enough to bail with no further loss once you realize your actual rate of pay — employment is at will. And if Y/X is still a decent rate of pay, who cares that it isn’t quite as good as the nominal rate of pay?

The only case where it’s of real practical significance is if Y/X ends up driving your real wage below minimum, which is absolutely legitimate grounds for a lawsuit (and whatever other sanctions are appropriate for paying less than minimum wage).

Thomas says:

I join my voice to the chorus of people who are for this lawsuit, although I am not sure that a solution is clear.

Cubicle 99 – Your statement alone is almost awe inspiring for the amount of douchebaggery contained within. I’ll be more than happy to not sit on my fat ass and twiddle my thumbs when the workstation I sit at does not make me do so. If you want me to work, then be damn sure that my tools are ready to go when I get there. All I should have to do is sit down, click “Auto In” and start taking calls. If you cannot provide me with that, and you want me to get the computer ready to do my job, then you need to pay me for spending my time at your business preparing to do my job. It’s a simple choice, and it’s a very minor request. Besides, I’m sure people here would be more than happy to come in to work on time and begin working right away rather than having to come in early to prepare their workstations.

This issue, which is a big one in the call center industry, has become especially prevalent in recent years due to the industry wide move away from call center desk phones to software phones such as Avaya IP Agent. My first couple of call center jobs actually had a physical desk phone that I could log in to; As soon as I was at my desk, I was on the clock. Now that soft phones are becoming more commonplace, you have to wait for a workstation to at least load your profile and applications before you can log in to the phones (and therefore start getting paid).

With access cards being commonplace in businesses these days, I would think that the swiping of those cards could be used to track employee work. Unfortunately I can think of a few things that would occur as a result, one of which would be employees exploiting that system.

Allie says:

Secure Environment

Obviously the author, and many of those posting comments, don’t work in a secure environment. My computer must be locked when I’m not in front of it, in other words I have to log-off so anyone wanting access would need a username and password.

Along with this comes a lot of extra security programs that cause my computer to take almost 10 minutes before I can open a program, and another few after that before the programs run efficiently. The suggestion that I simply do something else isn’t practical, or allowed in my workplace. I leave my desk I have to log out and you can’t do that while the computer is booting. I also deal with confidential documents, so everything gets filed as I go. I literally have nothing else available to do while I wait.

Cubicle 99 says:

Re Thomas, comment 65

“Cubicle 99 – Your statement alone is almost awe inspiring for the amount of douchebaggery contained within.”

Thanks Thomas, it was good, wasn’t it? This article made such a tempting target, I couldn’t resist! 🙂 In fact, I’m a little surprised that no one else bit; these things usually get more response…

Quite often I read Mike’s articles and I think, “hmmm, I’m not too sure about that”. However, this one went right over the edge. I couldn’t believe he was supporting screwing over the little guy by big business. After all, defending the little guy is what most of these articles are about. Not sure what got into him.

For the record, I’m actually with you guys: if you’re at work, you are giving your time to your employer, regardless of what you are doing, so they should pay. I hope the lawsuit succeeds. This applies to: “I join my voice to the chorus of people who are for this lawsuit, although I am not sure that a solution is clear.” So the solution *is* clear.

They should probably pay for your lunch hour too, because you are still ostensibly ‘on the job’, but I’m not as certain of this one.

Hard Worker says:

Perceived Value

Employers think they’re saving money by doing this, but I have always seen that unhappy employees produce much less than what they think they’re saving. Any employer with a brain would realize that they should just go ahead and pay the employees for their time. Think of it as an investment. If an employee starts under producing, you can always pull them aside and say “Your numbers are terrible. You know how good you have it here; we pay you to boot up your computer and to go to the bathroom! Other places don’t do that. Now shape up or you’re out of here!”

Dave Hall says:

boot time

What people fail to report is that employment law requires pay to start at the first motion of work, i.e. open the door and do ANYTHING other than just stand there (like maybe flip a switch), you get two hours minimum pay.

This is why employers can’t have employees hanging around during off hours; If they were to come in to say hi to a co-worker and pick a dustball off the floor and put it in the trash: two hours minimum pay. Period.

There is no choice. Read your state employment statutes. Ask the Labor Board (or ask someone who’s been sued…)

WaitingForTheCorporateStuffToRun says:


I work for a very large corporation where bootup can take 10-15 minutes. The delay is in all of the corporate scripts that run including antivirius, drive mapping, update checking, hard drive encryption. It goes on and on.

Then when shutting down, all of the paging files get zeroed out. If you have a gig or more of memory, this can take quite a while. (5-10 minutes).

Not fun at all.

I’m considered an exempt employee. But I’d hate to be a customer service rep who has to be logged in by the time their shift starts. You’d have to get to work 1/2 hour before your shift to ensure that you are logged in.

J. Mitchell says:

Worked in a call center where this was a hot issue for a while. There was an old Windows NT computer we cold clock in on that stayed on all the time, and when I started, I was trained that we should use that as soon as we walked in the door – then go back to our stations and boot up, bring up tools, etc. and be ready to take calls by the start of the shift. Made perfect sense to me. But we *were* being paid for that time. (As for shutdown, I just clocked out, hit the shutdown button and walked out the door – too bad if the machine didn’t make it all the way off).

Then, shortly after I started, trainees started being told that they were *not* to use that NT computer for clocking in early. They were to bring up their machines, 15 minutes early, of course, and sign in only once they were ready to start taking calls. Myself and a few others from the “old days” continued to clock in early on the NT machine, and were never told to do otherwise. And so it went for about 2 years.

Finally, one of the newer employees with a brain complained to the NC Dept. of Labor. They guys from the State came down and conducted an investigation (truly!), and concluded that – lo and behold – starting up your computer, waiting for the company’s scripts to run, and bringing up your tools *was* billable time. And then everyone started logging in at the NT machine again.

Icing on the cake for a few of us: as another result of the investigation, *all* employees, regardless of whether they had been clocking in when they walked in or after bringing up their machine, received a check to compensate for an average of 15 minutes of lost time per day over those two years (or whatever portion of it you worked at that center). I recall it being like an extra paycheck that month ($500?). I of course didn’t complain, and feel like maybe that double-dipping was just compensation for them being stupid enough not to catch what was going on (and the few of us being smart enough to just keep our mouths shut and stay under the radar). Now *there’s* a company that’s on top of its game!

Sean (user link) says:

Better in europe?

My fianceé works in an Italian call centre contracted to two of the biggest mobile phone networks in Europe. She has this same problem – she has to be there 10-20 minutes before the start of her shift in order to be ready to start taking calls.

Also, if the system won’t log her off at the end of her shift, or if there’s a long call that can’t be closed, she doesn’t get paid for this time neither.

This is of course totally illegal. Unfortunately big employers has good POLITICAL protection. Worse still, the place is unionised, the union knows all about it, but doesn’t give a tuppence because the union stewards are all well in with the bosses and all have cushy jobs that they don’t want to jeopardise.

So I’d say Europe is actually worse than the US, in some places anyway.

CJ says:

I don’t think it’s right to not pay workers for the time they are required to be there. However, as an employee on salary, I can say I’m playing a tiny violin for the 7 days of unpaid work. I work about 65 days of free work, as I work on average 10 extra hours a week, because workload has increased but workforce has actually decreased so on top of that we’re taking on responsibilities from the departed.

Also I have XP and my system takes 15 minutes to start up in the morning (I have a laptop because that way I can be expected to work from home at night too) because they have so much security/antivirus/harddrive encryption crap that runs at bootup you’d think I worked for the CIA

Mr. Roboto says:

Not at all frivolous

People are quick to call this ‘frivolous’ before they even read the whole story – but I guarantee you anyone who calls this a frivolous law suit has never themselves been in this situation –
For example, I have a PC that when on the company Network can take nearly an hour to completely boot up – I finally began booting it up then joining the network to save time – but none the less our company is fraught with issues that can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes typically to boot up and that is all time that you bet I charge for. I don’t care if I’m making coffee or working on spreadsheets – that is beside the point – they pay me for my time and the moment I’m in their building I’m charging them for it – I applaud this lawsuit and hope they continue to be successful and squash this trend. I think it’s disgusting the way these corporations devalue their workers – it’s just a shame.

Lori says:

The law says

The law is simple. Employees must be paid for all time worked. If booting up the computer is part of your job, then they must pay you for that time. I know that I pay daycare for the 10 extra minutes it takes for me to boot up my computer. Many employers bank on employees who don’t stand up for their rights or just may not know about their rights. With the economy the way it is and the shortage of jobs you can bet you will see more employers trying to push around their employees. Check the payoll statutes for your state. If they are in violation of the statutes contact the Department of Labor for your state.

saiyangerl says:

Totally Agree! Booting up your PC should be paid time!

I currently work in an office/call center environment. Though I’m not on the phones as I do data entry but this still affects me. We have to clock in through a software program on the computer. The computer itself takes forever to boot up as well as takes forever to load your desktop once you login with your username and password. And then after that the software we use to clock in takes awhile to load!

Nevermind the hike from the parking lot to the building! They only give us a 5min grace period. If you clock into the software past 5mins you are considered late. You get “attendance points” each time you are “late” and if you rack up a certain amount of points you can get a verbal warning or written up and it can affect your review at the end of the year as well as your annual bonus.

What I have a problem with more than the fact that they expect me to get to work early to boot up my computer unpaid, is that I could potentially be late in clocking in and be penalized for it since their computers and clock in software run so slow! If you swiped your badge to get into the building at or before your start time then you can e-mail your supervisor if you clocked in “late” so that they can have operations check your badge swipe and not add “attendance points” to your record. It’s such a hassle to have to do that though.

Also, usually once a year my employer sends out an e-mail reminding us that we are to completely shut down our computers every day. That e-mail just got sent out recently. A co-worker and I noticed they were going around and looking to see if the power light was on on people’s computers that had already left. Usually I leave my desktop locked and just have my clock in software open and ready to go despite their stupid “rule.” I close out of everything else and turn off my monitors. But now that could be a problem if they are doing a shut down crack down!

E says:

I 100% agree

Working at a call center, we are not required to log in and TAKE calls until our shift time has started, now on the opposite side I like to log in 1-2 minutes beforehand to check emails, check my schedule, etc. And my employer literally tells me not to, because of these dummies suing companies for “Wasted time”. I CHOOSE to log in early, I dont expect to get paid for it! I am not even really doing anything for that 2 minutes anyway! And yet my company still gets on me for it, thanks to the idiots who sue for literally a couple of minutes. Ridiculous!

Smarter than some says:

Computer Boot Up Time

Fortunately for some you dont have a job that times you like a call center. On a good day for 6 years I had to be at my desk 20 minutes for all the programs I use to come on. I have kids to drop off at school. 20 min in rush hour traffic is a lot of stress. It also is a lot of money to me. Maybe your time isnt valuable. But as Federal Law would have it, you need to be paid for that time so Employers should pay it.

anonomys says:

Turning on or off the computer

The real issue here is not that the employer has no value over the personal time of the non exempt employee.
The real issue is that the employee is required to turn on a machine, and ensure a machine is turned off, as part of the employee’s regular duties, therefore turning the machine on or off and waiting for it constitutes WORK and the employee is not being paid for their time, which is a violation of FLSA.
The old 7 minute rule for paying by the quarter hour is obsolete – employees paid by their computer clock in time are paid by the actual minute. Flipping the switch and waiting is to be looked at as work since it is a part of the employee’s duties and therefore the employer should be obligated to pay the employee for ALL time worked.

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