Sixth Circuit Holds That Security Guards’ Meal Periods Were Not Compensable, Despite Requirement That Guards Remain on Company Premises and Perform Work Duties

By:  Carrie S. Bryant

 

On January 7, 2015, the Sixth Circuit issued its opinion in Ruffin, et al. v. MotorCity Casino, No. 14-1444 (6th Cir. Jan. 7, 2015), addressing the issue whether
MotorCity Casino’s security guards, who were required to remain on company
property during meal periods, monitor two-way radios, and respond to emergencies,
spent their meal time predominantly for their own benefit or that of the casino.  If the Court determined that the security guards spent their meal time predominately for the benefit of MotorCity, the time would be compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”).  The Sixth Circuit concluded that the meal periods did not predominantly benefit the casino.  Therefore, the meal periods were not compensable.

In Ruffin, current and former security guards sued MotorCity Casino in district court, alleging that they were entitled to overtime payments under the FLSA because they worked over 40 hours per week, including their half hour meal periods.  The guards were free to eat, socialize with co-workers, use their cell phones, and play cards during their breaks.  However, MotorCity required the guards to stay on the casino’s premises, listen to their radios, and respond to dispatcher emergency calls during their meal time.

The district court determined that the radio monitoring activity was not a substantial job duty, and did not regularly disrupt the guards’ meal periods.  Therefore, the court held that the meal periods were non-compensable.  The guards appealed to the Sixth Circuit.

The Sixth Circuit analyzed three factors to determine whether the security guards’ meal times were in fact compensable: 1) whether the employees were “engaged in the performance of any substantial duties” during the meal periods, 2) whether MotorCity’s business regularly interrupted the employees’ meal periods, and 3) the employees’ inability to leave MotorCity’s property during meal breaks.

First, the Sixth Circuit determined that the security guards were not asked to perform substantial job duties during their meal periods.  Monitoring a radio did not qualify as a substantial job duty where the employees were also allowed to eat, read, socialize and conduct personal business during their meal times.  The security guards offered no  evidence that they were prevented from engaging in any of these activities, or that
monitoring two-way radios interfered with their enjoyment of these activities.

Second, the security guards did not produce evidence showing that their meal periods were regularly interrupted for emergency calls.  To the contrary, the evidence showed that
interruptions rarely ever occurred.  In fact, one employee recalled missing only one meal period in more than 10 years’ employment.

Lastly, a meal period is not compensable merely because an employee is required to remain on company premises for the entire meal period.  The question is whether employers require employees to stay on company property as a way of getting the employees to perform unpaid work.  Here, despite being required to stay on MotorCity’s grounds, the security guards were allowed to spend their meal periods the way that any off-duty employee would be allowed to spend a meal period, including surfing the Internet, socializing and eating.

The Ruffin case provides just one example of a circumstance in which it would be acceptable to require an employee to perform work duties during an uncompensated meal
period.  In this case, the Sixth Circuit evaluated the totality of the circumstances, and found that the security guards did not meet their burden of proving that they spent their meal periods primarily for the employer’s benefit.  Had MotorCity imposed greater duties and more restrictions on the security guards during meal periods, the case may have been decided differently.

As a result of this case, employers may want to evaluate which job duties they require employees to perform during meal periods to determine whether they should be compensated.  Employers are encouraged to consult with an experienced labor and
employment attorney, such as the author, to assess their meal and break policies.

This article was written by Carrie S. Bryant who is a member of the Legal Affairs Committee and an Attorney of the law firm of Dykema Gossett PLLC, located in its Bloomfield Hills, MI office.  She can be reached at (248) 203-0728 or cbryant@dykema.com.

Detroit SHRM encourages members to share these articles within their organizations; however, members should refrain from forwarding them outside their organizations or
printing for mass distribution without written permission of the Detroit SHRM
Executive Committee. January 2015.

How to know which Retirement Plan is right for your small business

By: Victor H. Hicks II, CFP®, AIF®
Owner, Managing Principal
Lumin Financial, LLC
An Independent Registered Investment Adviser
vhicks@luminfinancial.com

 

As a small business owner, you should consider the advantages of establishing an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Generally, you are entitled to a tax deduction for plan contributions. You are required, however, to include certain employees in the plan and to give a portion of the contributions your business makes to participating employees. Nevertheless, a plan can provide you with a tax-advantaged method to save for your own retirement, while providing your employees with a powerful benefit. Here’s a look at several retirement programs appropriate for a small business:


Payroll Deduction IRA

This is a simple way for you and your employees to save for retirement without having to formally adopt a plan. Each participant can make contributions of up to $5,500 for 2014, while participants age 50 and older can make an additional $1,000 of catch-up contributions. There are no annual reporting requirements. Withdrawals can be made at any time, subject to income taxes. (Early withdrawals generally are subject to an additional 10% penalty.)


SEP

Also set up with IRAs, a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) can accept much larger contributions — all made by the employer. A SEP must be offered to all employees who (1) are at least 21 years old, (2) have been employed by you for three of the last five years, and (3) earn compensation of at least $550 (in 2014). A uniform percentage of pay must be contributed for each employee in any given year, although you can vary the percentage — across the board — and even choose not to contribute in a given year.

Annual contributions per participant are capped at $52,000 or 25% of compensation for 2014. This plan has modest start-up and operating costs. Contributions are 100% vested, and withdrawals are permitted at any time, subject to taxation and a potential early withdrawal penalty.


SIMPLE IRA Plan

Available to employers with 100 or fewer employees, a SIMPLE IRA allows employees to contribute through payroll deductions and requires employer contributions. The maximum amount an employee can defer is generally $12,000 for 2014. Employers must either match employee contributions dollar for dollar — up to 3% of compensation — or make a fixed contribution of 2% of compensation for all eligible employees. Eligible employees can make catch-up contributions of up to $2,500 (in 2014).

A SIMPLE IRA must be offered to all employees who have earned $5,000 in any prior two years and are reasonably expected to earn $5,000 in the current year. Plan set-up is relatively easy.

 

401(k) Plans

401(k) plans allow employees to contribute salary on a pretax basis and, if desired, can also allow after-tax Roth contributions. You can choose a traditional, safe harbor, or automatic enrollment safe harbor plan design.

 

The safe harbor design eliminates the discrimination testing required in traditional 401(k)s and encourages participation by requiring employer contributions of 3% of pay or based on a specified matching schedule. The plan must be offered to all employees at least age 21 who worked at least 1,000 hours in a previous year. Some employer matching funds may vest over time, per plan terms.

 

Automatic enrollment safe harbor 401(k)s are also available. Like the basic safe harbor design, the automatic enrollment variety generally eliminates the need for discrimination testing. Employees can opt out after receiving notice from the plan.

 

If your small business is ready to implement a retirement plan, contact a Lumin Financial adviser for help deciding which type is right for your organization and its employees.

ABOUT LUMIN FINANCIAL

Lumin Financial is a fee-only independent Registered Investment Adviser, specializing in 401(k) plans for small- to mid-sized employers. Lumin Financial advisors serve plan sponsors throughout the Midwest with a disciplined approach to managing plan investments, counseling on fiduciary risk matters, and reducing excessive plan fees. In addition to managing investments and risk, Lumin delivers personalized financial education to plan participants. Let them help you plan a clear direction for a bright future.

www.luminfinancial.com

Lumin Financial, LLC is a registered investment adviser.  Information presented is for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies.  Investments involve risk and unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed.  Be sure to first consult with a qualified financial adviser and/or tax professional before implementing any strategy discussed herein.  Please note, changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have a substantial impact upon each person’s situation. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters.  You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.