HONOLULU — A group of civilian employees who worked for the United States Navy as guards in the Navy’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu filed suit against the Navy alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The civilian employees’ core duties were to monitor weapons storerooms and assist customers who arrived to check equipment in or out. The storerooms were staffed with one guard at a time. The plaintiffs in this case alleged that they were required to remain at their posts during unpaid meal breaks in violation of FLSA.
Unpaid Working Meal Periods
The plaintiffs scheduled shifts are 8.5 hours long, according to the complaint. One half-hour of each shift is designated as an unpaid meal period, and plaintiffs receive 8 hours of pay for each 8.5-hour shift that they work. Additionally, the plaintiffs are apparently not required to take their meal periods at a specific time, but regardless of when they choose to eat their meals, they are not relieved from their posts during that period but are required to remain in or within sight of their post. The weapons storerooms were staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
According to the court, the plaintiffs were required to continue to guard the weapons and other equipment in the storeroom and to provide assistance to law enforcement officers who come to the window throughout their shifts, including through their half-hour unpaid meal period.
Overtime Pay Required
According to the court, to determine whether meal periods are compensable under FLSA, it has to examine the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the employee spends his or her meal period engaged in activities that are predominantly for his or her own benefit or activities that instead provide benefits predominantly for the employer. In this case, the court found that the plaintiffs are required to spend their entire shift, including their meal break, engaged in activities that predominantly benefit the Navy. It found undisputed that the plaintiffs are not permitted to leave for any period during their shifts, except to take brief bathroom breaks. They are also required to perform their core duties of guarding the storeroom and responding to requests to check in and check out weapons and equipments throughout their entire shifts. This policy predominantly benefits the Navy, according to the court.
Additionally, the court did not agree with the Navy’s argument that it was unaware that the plaintiffs were working through their meal breaks because the plaintiffs failed to inform their supervisors that they were entitled to overtime compensation. The court found that since it was undisputed that Navy policy required the plaintiffs to remain their for their entire shift, they knew that they were working through their meal breaks.
Under FLSA, employees should be paid for all hours worked, which includes overtime pay if necessary. You should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page to consult with an attorney as to whether your employer might be depriving you of pay unlawfully. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.