In White v. Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp., the Sixth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment and decertification of an FLSA class concerning allegations that the plaintiff sometimes had to work through lunch without compensation. The Court began by acknowledging the “dearth of case law on compensation for missed meal breaks under the FLSA.” The Court then surveyed the existing case law, as well as analogous unpaid overtime case law, concluding that the employee bears some responsibility for the proper implementation of the FLSA’s standards. In other words, an employer cannot satisfy an obligation if it does not recognize that there is a potential problem. Therefore, if the employer establishes a reasonable process for reporting uncompensated work time, the employer cannot be liable for non-payment if the employee does not follow that process. Surveying the evidence, the Sixth Circuit majority concluded that there was no evidence that the defendant discouraged the employees from reporting time worked during meal breaks, and it recognized that the defendant had established a system to compensate workers for time missed during the meal breaks. As a result, it held that summary judgment was proper. Turning to the class certification issue, because the plaintiff no longer had a viable claim, she could not represent others through the class vehicle. As result, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the decertification order as well.
Judge Moore, however, dissented. She would have found that the record contained sufficient evidence from which a jury could find that the defendant had actual knowledge that the plaintiff was working without compensation during meal breaks. As a result of these disputes of fact, Judge Moore would have reversed the decision on summary judgment.
This case provides a good roadmap for employers in terms of the procedures that the Sixth Circuit will find sufficient to potentially avert these types of FLSA claims.