Tuesday, October 28, 2008, 11:28 AM

To boot or not to boot? Only if you are paid to boot?

In September of this year, UnitedHealth Group Inc. was sued in Missouri state court by employees in a proposed collective action that alleges various wage and hour violations, including that UnitedHealth failed to pay its employees who work from home for time spent booting up their computers. For these violations the plaintiffs are seeking unpaid wages, liquidated damages, attorneys' fees and the litigation costs under the FLSA.

Last week, UnitedHealth successfully removed the case from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on diversity and federal question grounds.

In terms of specific allegations, the plaintiffs alleged that customer service representatives at UnitedHealth and other employees assigned to work from home were not paid for several tasks that were time-consuming at the start and end of each day, such as turning on and booting up their computers and the computers programs in which they worked. The plaintiff further alleged that these activities were “preparatory, integral and indispensable" to the job duties of the customer service representatives. Additionally, plaintiff asserted that customer service representatives working from home were required to complete calls that began prior to their scheduled shift-ending times, but this extra time was not compensated.

It will be interesting to learn whether booting up time for home-based workers is considered time worked under the FLSA, as well as whether the employee's hours must be extended to reflect time spent after normal hours on tasks begun before his or her shift concluded. It is never to early to assess your company's practices on telecommuting and working at home from an employment law compliance standpoint. As economic times continue to be turbulent, employees are likely to seek maximum compensation for any time spent in furtherance of an employer's business.

To read the complaint in Wolfert v. UnitedHealth Group Inc. et al., case number 4:08-cv-01643, click here.


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