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W.D.N.Y.: Time Spent “Arming Up,” Checking Through Security And “Arming Down” Not Compensable For Security Guards At Nuclear Power Plant
Albrecht v. Wackenhut Corp.
Plaintiffs brought this action alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“FLSA”) and violations of New York Labor Law (“NYLL”) seeking additional compensation for certain activities that occurred before and after their scheduled work shifts and workdays. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that Wackenhut violated the FLSA and the NYLL by failing to pay them for time spent arming up and checking through security and arming down at the Ginna facility. The case was before the Court on the parties’ respective motions for summary judgment. Granting Defendant’s motion and denying Plaintiff’s motion, the Court discussed the nature of Plaintiffs’ uncompensated activities deeming them to be preliminary and post-liminary and thus non-compensable.
The Court discussed the nature of the time in dispute:
“B. Arming Up and Reporting to Post Prior to March 1, 2006
The guards report to work in uniform, which consists of blue pants, a blue shirt, boots, a hat, jacket and other equipment. The guards are free to wear their uniforms home and return to work in uniform on their next scheduled workday. Before March 1, 2006 guards were permitted to leave Ginna with most of the equipment issued by Wackenhut, including their gun belts, radio pouches and bandoliers. The only equipment that guards were required to leave on site was their service revolver, which was kept in the armory, and a handheld radio, which was stored in a nearby charging unit. Plaintiffs contend that service revolvers and handheld radios were stored in various locations on the Ginna facility at different relevant time periods.
There is no dispute that the arming up and arming down process prior to March 1, 2006 took place in the room in which the armory was located. According to Wackenhut, after clearing security, the guards were able to go directly to the room in which their weapons and radios were stored to retrieve them before reporting to their assigned post. Plaintiffs claim that upon clearing security, the guards were required to first report to the locker room to obtain ammunition, gun belts, radio pouches and bandoliers, before obtaining their firearms and radios in the armory.
The process of arming up began with a guard identifying the serial number of his or her weapon and would then retrieve the weapon in a clearing barrel from a supervisor in the armory. The guard would then follow a series of instructions from the supervisor concerning the process of loading and holstering his or her weapon. The arming up process was complete when the guard holstered the weapon. The deposition testimony of several plaintiffs confirm that it took thirty seconds to less than a minute from the time when a security guard identified the serial number on his weapon to the time the weapon was holstered. The arming down process was essentially the same process in reverse and was completed in the same amount of time. After retrieving their weapon, guards obtained a handheld radio at a location in the same area as the armory, at which time each signed a log to identify which radio they took. It is undisputed that the arming up and arming down process was routine, relatively effortless and could be completed in a short time frame.
Upon completion of the arming up process and retrieval of the handheld radio, guards then reported to their first assigned post. Based on the deposition testimony, it takes less than thirty seconds to walk from the armory, which is currently located in the guard house, to many of the posts. The remaining posts can be reached by a person walking at a normal pace in one to five minutes. Plaintiffs claim that the amount of time to arm up and arm down depends upon various factors. Further, plaintiffs submitted four affidavits in opposition to Wackenhut’s summary judgment motion alleging that it took them between eight minutes to fifteen minutes to complete pre-shift activities prior to March 1, 2006. However, these alleged time ranges are not consistent with the deposition testimony of various plaintiffs deposed by defendant.
In addition, the affidavits provided by the four guards demonstrate that they included in the time estimates time that they claim they spent engaging in activities that are separate and distinct from arming up and arming down. For instance, the four guards included in the time estimates in their affidavits the time they claim they spent walking from the room in which the armory was located to their assigned posts. Moreover, they included in their estimates the time they allegedly spent engaging in certain activities that occurred before the arming up process started, such as time allegedly spent on occasionally having to wait for the arming up process to begin. They also included in their estimates the time that they allegedly spent on occasionally addressing radio issues or difficulties. These alleged radio issues happen infrequently and take a matter of seconds to address e.g. dealing with radio traffic at the BRAVO alarm station would take no more than five seconds to address.
According to defendant, security guards were not asked to perform any work before the start of their regularly-scheduled shifts. Before March 1, 2006, guards were compensated for all work time beginning with the start of their scheduled shift but guards were not required to arrive on site at any specified time prior to their scheduled shift to be considered on time. Plaintiffs contend that they were required to report to their post 15 minutes before the start of their shift but were not compensated until their shift actually started. Wackenhut argues that plaintiffs did not have to arrive at the site at any particular time prior to the start of their shift to be on time. In fact, prior to March 1, 2006, defendant was aware of many occasions on which guards completed the security clearance process just a minute or two before the start of their scheduled shift and were able to retrieve their weapon and radio and report to their post on time. These guards were not disciplined and were considered to be in compliance with Wackenhut’s policies and expectations.
C. Pre-Shift Briefings That Began in February 2006
On or about February 26, 2006, Wackenhut implemented a pre-shift briefing process for all guards at the Ginna facility. During these briefings, guards are advised about various issues relevant to their position including any incidents that may have occurred in previous shifts, developments in the industry, and/or changes in any policies or procedures by Wackenhut. The pre-shift briefing is held in the Security Building. Guards are able to go directly to the briefing room once they complete the security clearance process in the same building. Since the implementation of these pre-shift briefings, guards report to the briefing room fifteen minutes before the start of their scheduled shifts. For instance, a guard assigned to the 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift must report, in uniform, to the briefing room by 6:15 a.m. At the conclusion of the pre-shift briefing, the security guards report to the armory to retrieve their weapons and then proceeded to their first assigned post. Since on or about February 26, 2006, guards have been compensated from the start of the pre-shift briefings, which occur before the arming up process begins. They continue to be paid through the remainder of the day until the arming down process is completed at the end of their shifts.
Plaintiffs argue that the time spent from the beginning of the pre-shift briefing until the commencement of their scheduled shifts are not calculated towards overtime. Defendant contends that plaintiffs’ assertions are inconsistent with the plaintiffs’ deposition testimony and the terms of the written policy issued at the same time that the shift briefings were implemented. According to defendant, the Wackenhut employee manual for the February 2006 time period provided that guards would be compensated for time spent during the shift briefing and de-gunning process. In addition, the policy stated that this time would be compensated at the guards’ normal base rate for time under forty hours in a week and at the guards’ overtime rate for time over forty hours in a week.”
The Court then determined that Plaintiffs were, as a matter of law, not entitled to be compensated for such activities:
“This case falls under the purview of the 1947 Portal-to-Portal Act, in which Congress provided that employers would not be liable to provide compensation for activities which are “preliminary to or postliminary to” the principal activity or activities which employees are employed to perform. See 29 U.S.C. § 254(a)(2). Applying the Portal-to-Portal Act, the Supreme Court has determined that activities performed before or after an employee’s regular work shift are compensable if they are “an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities for which covered workman are employed.” See Steiner v. Mitchell, 350 U.S. 247, 256 (1956). Moreover, in Gorman v. Consolidated Edison Corp., 488 F.3d 586, 594 (2d Cir.2007), the Second Circuit articulated a distinction between the terms “indispensable” and “integral.” While “indispensable” means only “necessary,” the term “integral” adds the requirement that the activity be “essential to completeness … organically linked … [or] composed of constituent parts making a whole.” See id. at 592. Therefore, unless an activity is essential to complete the employee’s task, it is excluded from compensation under the Act. See id.; see also IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez, 546 U.S. 21, 40-41 (2005) (unless an activity is both integral and indispensable to performing the job, it is not a principal activity of the job).
In Gorman, the plaintiffs sought compensation for time spent donning and doffing helmets, safety glasses, and steel-toed boots. The court conceded that such gear might have been indispensable to the employees’ work, in that it was required by the employer or by government regulations, but found that the donning and doffing of such gear was not integral to the employees’ work at Indian Point and accordingly, did not constitute “work time” for purposes of the FLSA. See Gorman, 488 F.3d at 594. Rather, the Court opined that “[t]he donning and doffing of generic protective gear is not rendered integral by being required by the employer or by government regulation.” See id. (citing Reich v. IPP. Inc., 38 F.3d 1123, 1126 (10th Cir.1994) (holding that donning and doffing safety glasses, a pair of ear plugs, a hard hat, and safety shoes “although essential to the job, and required by the employer, are pre-and postliminary activities”).
The Gorman court also contrasted the uncompensated wearing of generic safety gear with the complete changing and showering required by the employer in Steiner. It also contrasted the wearing of specialized gear required for employees who worked in the nuclear containment area, for which those employees were compensated. The court reasoned that procedures for wearing this specialized gear were integral to the act of working in the hazardous environment of the containment area. By contrast, the court found that “the donning and doffing of … generic protective gear [such as a helmet, safety glasses, and steel-toed boots] is not different in kind from ‘changing clothes and showering under normal conditions,’ which under Steiner are not covered by the FLSA.” See Gorman, 488 F.3d at 594. Further, the Gorman court observed that “donning and doffing” of the equipment at issue in that case were “ ‘relatively effortless,’ noncompensable, preliminary tasks.” Id. at 594 (citing Reich v. New York City Transit Auth., 45 F.3d 646, 649 (2d Cir.1995). Accordingly, the Court held that these activities constituted non-compensable preliminary and postliminary tasks for which no pay was required under the FLSA.
Here, the record demonstrates that the arming up process was accomplished with minimal effort and the arming down was not difficult or time-consuming. See Reich, 45 F.3d at 651 (Second Circuit observed that Portal-to-Portal Act amendments exempt such “trivial, non-onerous aspects of preliminary preparation, maintenance and cleanup” from “work time” under the FLSA). There is no dispute that the arming up and arming down process was routine, relatively effortless and could be accomplished in a short period of time. The deposition testimony of plaintiffs confirm that the arming up process took approximately thirty seconds to less than a minute to complete. The arming down process was essentially the same process in reverse and was completed in the same amount of time. Upon completion of the arming up process and retrieval of the handheld radio, guards reported to their first assigned post. Based on the deposition testimony, it takes less than thirty seconds to walk from the armory, which is currently located in the guard house, to many of the posts. The remaining posts can be reached by a person walking at a normal pace in one to five minutes. Further, plaintiffs were not required to arrive on site at any particular time prior to their scheduled shift to be considered on time.
Plaintiffs attempt to establish a question of fact by providing four affidavits contending that it could take up to eight to fifteen minutes to complete the arming up and arming down process prior to March 1, 2006. For instance, in Stacy Janke’s affidavit submitted in opposition to defendant’s motion for summary judgment, he states that “the time required to … report to an assigned post, is approximately twelve (12) to fifteen (15) minutes.” See Janke Aff., ¶ 6. It is well settled, however, that plaintiffs “may not create an issue of fact by submitting an affidavit in opposition to a summary judgment motion that, by omission or addition, contradicts the affiant’s previous deposition testimony.” See Hayes v. New York City Department of Corrections, 85 F.3d 614, 619 (2d Cir.1996) (citations omitted); see also Schratz v. Potter, 2008 WL 5340992 at *6 (W.D.N.Y.2008).
Indeed, “factual issues created solely by an affidavit crafted to oppose a summary judgment motion are not ‘genuine’ issues for trial.” See Hayes, 85 F.3d at 619. Though Stacy and other plaintiffs testified under oath at their deposition, they never claimed that it took twelve to fifteen minutes to complete the arming up or arming down process. Rather, Mr. Janke and other plaintiffs testified that the actual process of arming up could be completed in less than one minute. It is also undisputed that the arming down process involves the same procedure in reverse and was completed in the same time frame. Accordingly, plaintiffs cannot rely on their contradictory affidavits to create an issue of fact on this point. Moreover, a further analysis of the four affidavits submitted by plaintiffs confirms that all four individuals included time in their pre-shift estimates that is not part of the arming up and arming down process. Rather, they included time allegedly spent walking, waiting in line and/or donning and doffing generic equipment or clothing that is distinct from arming up and arming down. None of the time allegedly spent engaging in any of those activities is compensable under Gorman and Second Circuit case law.
Further, plaintiffs’ reliance on the decision in Maciel v. City of Los Angeles, 569 F.Supp2d 1038 (C.D.Calif.2008) is misplaced. The rationale employed by courts such as Bamonte v. City of Mesa, 2008 WL 1746168 (D.Ariz.2008) are more sound and have been adopted by many other courts and the Department of Labor as it pertains to the significance of an employee’s ability to leave work with required equipment. See Bamonte, 2008 WL 1746168 at *5 (observing that “a rule which categorically defines donning and doffing time as noncompensable when an employee has an opportunity to change at home is consistent with the Department of Labor’s “longstanding” interpretation of the FLSA.”) In Bamonte, the court held that time spent changing into and out of police uniforms and other equipment was not compensable because the police officers were allowed to go to the police station in uniform. See id. at *11-12. Here, the evidence reveals that plaintiffs were free to leave the site in their uniforms, with most of the equipment they were issued by Wackenhut, including the radio pouches, gun belts, and bandoliers which the four plaintiffs reference in their affidavit in opposition to the motion for summary judgment.
As a matter of law, the activities for which plaintiffs seek compensation were preliminary and postliminary activities not subject to compensation under the FLSA. To the extent that they were otherwise compensable activities, they are de minimis in nature. Accordingly, defendant is entitled to summary judgment.”