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Meadows v. NCR Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 9, 2017

Michael Meadows, Plaintiff,
NCR Corporation, Defendant.


          Manish S. Shah, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Michael Meadows brings this action against his employer, defendant NCR Corporation, for unpaid wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, 820 ILCS § 105/1, et seq. NCR moves for summary judgment. For the following reasons, NCR's motion is denied.

         I. Legal Standards

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A court must view all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 735 F.3d 962, 965 (7th Cir. 2013).

         II. Background

         Meadows has worked for NCR as a Customer Engineer for over eight years. [166] ¶ 8.[1] He is a non-exempt employee who is paid on an hourly basis. Id. Although Meadows acknowledges that NCR has written policies deeming all work time as compensable time and prohibiting employees from failing to record their work time, he explains that in practice, the policies are routinely ignored. [165-2] at 26, 95:3-96:7. Each of Meadows's territory managers have instructed him not to follow NCR's written policies, id. at 26, 97:5-10, and they have encouraged him to work off-the-clock, id. at 23, 83:24-84:1.

         A. NCR's Written Policies

         NCR requires CEs to read and periodically review the NCR U.S. Customer Engineer Human Resources Handbook so that they are familiar with and can abide by NCR's policies. [165-3] at 3-4. If CEs have a question about “the content or interpretation” of the policies, the handbook directs CEs to contact their managers or to consult with “HR Central.” Id. at 4. These written policies provide specific details about how CEs should schedule their workdays.

         NCR assigns each CE a “regular work shift, ” which territory managers have the discretion to change based on staffing needs, workload, and other factors. Id. at 7. At least thirty minutes before a CE's scheduled shift, the CE must check in with the “Operations Center” and update his whereabouts. Id. at 8. The handbook states: “In total, these activities should take no more than one or two minutes to complete.” Id. Beyond this requirement for CEs to “briefly” check their mobile devices to determine the location of their first assignment, CEs are prohibited from performing any work before the start of their scheduled shifts. Id. at 15. The first thirty minutes of a CE's commute to his first customer worksite is not compensable; accordingly, the handbook prohibits CEs from performing work (taking calls or answering emails for longer than one or two minutes) during that time.[2] Id. at 9.

         At some time during their shift, NCR expects CEs to take an unpaid lunch break. Id. at 11. Since a CE's schedule “flexes to meet customer needs, ” NCR asks CEs to use their “best judgment” in deciding when to take a lunch break during their shift. Id. Immediately before taking a lunch break, CEs must inform the Operations Center that they are doing so, and CEs must update their status via their mobile devices to indicate that they are taking a lunch break until a specified time. Id. CEs may not work during their unpaid lunch break; NCR requires CEs to contact their managers if they are being interrupted during their reported lunch break Id. at 11, 15 (“If you receive a business call, text or email from NCR or a customer during your lunch break, you are to delay your response until you are back on the clock; you have the right not to answer or respond to it until that time.”).

         In addition to repairing point-of-sale machines in the field, [182] ¶ 2, CEs also have to perform any number of administrative tasks during their shifts: answering phone calls, responding to emails[3], inputting details about service calls, processing and ordering parts, attending mandatory training, and recording their hours. [165-3] at 14, 15. The handbook makes clear that the time CEs spend completing these duties is compensable work time, and that CEs should fit such duties into their regular work shift “to meet productivity goals.” Id. at 14, 15 (“You may need to ask your supervisor to schedule ‘admin time' for you to accomplish tasks requiring an internet connection, because you are not permitted to perform these tasks at home outside of your regularly scheduled shift.”).

         Once a CE completes his last call of the day, the handbook directs him to stop working, unless otherwise instructed by his manager. Id. at 9. At the end of a shift, CEs must check in with the Operations Center and (1) close out any completed incidents, (2) move any active calls that continue into the next work period to an available CE on the next shift, and (3) update their whereabouts as unavailable. Id. at 8. The last thirty minutes of a CE's commute from his last worksite to his home is not compensable; as a result, the handbook prohibits CEs from performing work (taking calls or answering emails for longer than one or two minutes) during that time. Id. at 9. CEs may not resume working once they arrive at their homes. Id.; see also Id. at 15 (“Unless you have received prior approval from your supervisor, you are prohibited from processing parts at your home.”).

         Even though “NCR expects CEs to work within the work schedules set by their managers, ” CEs are nevertheless required to report any time they spend working, even if they worked outside of their scheduled shift and even if they worked overtime without prior approval. Id. at 15, 18. The handbook expressly prohibits supervisors from “encouraging or even suggesting” that CEs should work off-the-clock, but ultimately NCR places responsibility with the CEs for accurately reporting the time they spend working. Id. at 15.

         B. Meadows's Off-the-Clock Work

         NCR assigned Meadows a “regular work shift” from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., [166] ¶ 8, but Meadows says that NCR required him to work before and after that time, and that NCR did not compensate him for that additional work, [165-1] ¶¶ 10-15; [176] ¶¶ 3, 6-13. When asked about his allegations that NCR requires him to perform off-the-clock work in reference to NCR's written policies, Meadows acknowledged that the handbook prohibits off-the-clock work, but he explained that each of his territory managers have directed him to work off-the-clock. [165-2] at 22, 79:24-80:4[4]; id. at 23, 83:21-84:4[5]; id. at 27, 99:15-18.[6]

         On a daily basis, Meadows says he performs about 1.3 hours of unpaid work for NCR.[7] [182] ¶ 38. Specifically, he spends ten to forty minutes per day on pre-shift work, id. ¶ 21, and ten minutes per day on post-shift work, id. ¶ 35. Additionally, Meadows says he is not compensated for the time he spends working through his lunch break each day (NCR's timekeeping system deducts a thirty-minute lunch break from his daily hours, and Meadows submits his daily hours without manually editing the deduction to reflect the time he spent working through his break). Id. ¶ 28; [107] at 7.

         At least thirty minutes before his shift is scheduled to begin, Meadows says that NCR requires him to read his emails. [165-1] ¶¶ 11, 14; [176] ¶¶ 3, 6. He checks emails from his cell phone to get general instructions and to make sure that he does not have to re-prioritize particular service calls.[8] [165-2] at 13-14, 45:1- 46:2. The number of emails Meadows receives daily varies, but typically, he receives emails from his manager or someone at the Operations Center who is overseeing dispatching. Id. at 14, 46:2-20.

         Before his shift, Meadows says that NCR also requires him to review work orders from his cell phone and to communicate with the Operations Center.[9] [165-1] ¶¶ 11, 14; [176] ¶¶ 3, 6. Some days, Meadows inherits a work order from another CE, which may require him to call the Operations Center to find out where the part for that work order is, and then plan to pick up that part before driving to that worksite. [165-2] at 15, 50:7-24. Next, Meadows says he is required to map out his route for the day, update his estimated times of arrivals for each assignment, and update his status as “traveling, ” “dispatch, ” or “DS.” [165-1] ¶¶ 11, 12, 14; [176] ¶¶ 3, 6-7. In order to develop a route to follow from one worksite to the next, Meadows looks at his queue and then he can determine ETAs for each customer. [165-2] at 14, 47:19-48:1; id. at 15, 51:1-5. Sometimes he may need to restock his company-owned vehicle with various parts, depending on what he needs at the worksites that day.[10] [166] ¶ 8.

         By 7:30 a.m., Meadows is in his company-owned vehicle commuting to his first assignment of the day. Id. ¶ 8. It typically takes Meadows thirty minutes to commute to his first worksite. Id. ¶ 25. Despite the fact that Meadows is not compensated for the first thirty minutes of his commute, he often spends this time working because he makes or receives calls from the Operations Center in order to understand where the parts are located for specific service calls, or he commutes to pick up or drop off parts at FedEx. Id.; [165-2] at 17, 60:20-23. For the remainder of his shift, Meadows responds to service calls, commutes between worksites, and performs other related activities; his schedule is very tight and it usually does not allow him enough time to take a lunch break.[11] [182] ¶ 7; [165-2] at 25, 90:21-91:2; see also [176] ¶ 9 (explaining that he rarely gets an uninterrupted lunch break due to the high volume of work orders and his manager's requirement that he answer emails and phone calls from his manager and the NCR control tower immediately).

         After Meadows completes his last job in the field, he clocks out for the day, per NCR policies, even though he is often required to perform additional work: dropping off parts at FedEx, unloading his company car, ordering parts for his assignments the next day, entering his time for payroll purposes, undertaking additional recordkeeping, and commuting home.[12] [165-1] ¶¶ 10, 15; [166] ¶¶ 8, 21; [176] ¶ 11.

         Meadows never complained to or through anyone at HR Central that he had been required to work off-the-clock. [165-2] at 28, 105:2-6. He attempted to communicate with HR Central via a hotline many years ago about a different issue, id. at 28-29, 105:14-106:2; but, he explained that when an NCR employee leaves a message with HR Central, they do not usually return the employee's call. Id. at 28, 105:19-22. None of Meadows' managers have questioned him about his time entries, refused to approve his time entries, or told him that he needed to change his time entries. Id. at 25, 90:11-20. In fact, Meadows has worked overtime without prior approval, and as far as he knows, NCR has not denied him payment for that work. Id. at 25, 91:23-92:3. Meadows says that when he recorded his time accurately, NCR paid him the for work that he performed before and after his shift, as well as during his lunch break. [182] ¶ 36.

         III. ...

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