OPINION OF THE COURT
SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.
This putative class action was initiated by Sandra Babcock, a corrections officer at the Butler County Prison in Butler, Pennsylvania. Babcock claims that Butler County failed to properly compensate her and those similarly situated for overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-209 et seq. The FLSA requires an employee who works "a workweek longer than forty hours" to be paid at least one and one-half times the employee's regular rate for the work performed over forty hours. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(1).
This appeal raises the issue of whether a portion of time for the Butler County Prison corrections officers' meal periods is compensable under the FLSA.
Many of the relevant facts are not disputed. A collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") between Butler County and the employees who work at the Butler County Prison provides that corrections officers work eight and one-quarter hour shifts that include a one hour meal period, of which forty-five minutes are paid and fifteen minutes are unpaid.
Butler County filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
The predominant benefit tests asks "whether the officer is primarily engaged in work-related duties during meal periods."
Courts have generally eschewed a literal reading of a Department of Labor regulation that provides that during a "bona fide meal period"
29 C.F.R. § 785.19(a).
Thus, the predominant benefit test is necessarily a fact-intensive inquiry. For some courts, whether the employee is free to leave the premises is of particular importance. Others emphasize the number of interruptions to which the employees are subject. As the Eleventh Circuit has stated, "the essential consideration in determining whether a meal period is a bona fide meal period or a compensable rest period is whether the employees are in fact relieved from work for the purpose of eating a regularly scheduled meal." Kohlheim, 915 F.2d at 1477.
Here, although Plaintiffs face a number of restrictions during their meal period, the District Court correctly found that, on balance, these restrictions did not predominantly benefit the employer. In comparison to the cadre of case law addressing mealtime compensability in the law enforcement context, the allegations in Plaintiffs' complaint do not suffice. For example, the corrections officers here could request authorization to leave the prison for their meal period and could eat lunch away from their desks. In Alexander v. City of Chicago, in contrast, police officers were required to receive permission to take a meal period and were not permitted to read "nondepartmental publications."
Another factor to consider is the existence of the CBA. We find helpful the decision of the Seventh Circuit in Leahy v. City of Chicago, a case initiated by Chicago police officers seeking overtime pay.
The Dissent argues that we have "disregard[ed] Supreme Court precedent," inappropriately focused on a "red herring" (the CBA), and relied upon a "factually inapposite and legally outdated" case in our "misguided approach" to this case. Dissenting Op. at 159, 161-62. In reality, our approach is consistent with the weight of precedent, considers the CBA as one relevant—though not dispositive—factor, and merely comes to a different conclusion regarding the predominant benefit of the corrections officers' uninterrupted mealtime period under the totality of the circumstances. Although we find the Seventh Circuit's analysis in Leahy useful for comparison, the Dissent is correct that the instant case is distinguishable, which is why, unlike the Leahy court, we do not hold that "the [collective bargaining] agreement is a defense to liability under the FLSA." Leahy, 96 F.3d at 232 (emphasis added). Nor have we "conflate[d] contractual rights with statutory ones." Manning v. Boston Med. Ctr. Corp., 725 F.3d 34, 52 n. 9 (1st Cir.2013). Rather, we consider the agreed-upon characterization of the fifteen-minute unpaid meal break as a factor in analyzing to whom the predominant benefit of the period inures.
We have been advised at argument that the CBA is soon to expire. During the collective bargaining for the new contract, the parties will have a fresh opportunity to consider the issue of compensation for the fifteen minutes at issue in this case. It has been noted by the Supreme Court that employers and employees may make "reasonable provisions of contract or custom governing the computation of work hours where precisely accurate computation is difficult or impossible." Tenn. Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 603, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944), superseded by statute on other grounds, Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947, Pub.L. No. 80-49, 61 Stat. 84, codified at 29 U.S.C. §§ 251-262.
Although the District Court decided this case on the pleadings, there has been, unlike in Alexander, "sufficient development of the facts to enable a capable application of the appropriate predominant benefit standard, including a determination of whether the officers are unable to pass the mealtime comfortably because their time or attention is devoted primarily to official responsibilities." 994 F.2d at 339. Here, even accepting all of Plaintiffs' allegations as true, we do not find that the officers were "primarily engaged in work-related duties" during the daily, agreed-upon fifteen minutes of uninterrupted mealtime. Armitage, 982 F.2d at 432 (citing Lamon v. City of Shawnee, 972 F.2d 1145, 1157 (10th Cir.1992)). As a result, we find that they receive the predominant benefit of the time in question and are not entitled to compensation for it under the FLSA.
For the foregoing reasons, we hold that Plaintiffs' claims under the predominant benefit test fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. We will accordingly affirm the District Court's order granting Butler County's motion to dismiss.
GREENAWAY, JR., Circuit Judge, dissenting.
Today the Majority holds that Plaintiffs' Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") claims should be dismissed based upon a flawed application of the predominant benefit test. Specifically, the Majority erroneously concentrates on whether, under the parties' collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"), Plaintiffs are currently
Rather, the Majority misconstrues the predominant benefit standard. Its decision to dismiss relies upon the facts that Plaintiffs may request authorization to leave the prison for their meal period, are compensated for the first forty-five minutes of their hour lunch period, and must be compensated if their meal period is "interrupted."
I. Plaintiffs Raise a Plausible Claim that Uninterrupted Meal Periods Are Compensable Work.
In their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that they must remain in uniform, in the prison, in close proximity to emergency response equipment, and on call to respond to emergencies, for the duration of their meal periods. App. 24, ¶ 27. They also allege that they are not permitted to go outside, sleep, smoke, or run personal errands during this time. Id. ¶¶ 30, 31, 32.
"The central issue in mealtime cases is whether employees are required to `work' as that term is understood under the FLSA." Reich v. S. New England Telecomm. Corp., 121 F.3d 58, 64 (2d Cir.1997) (citing Henson v. Pulaski Cty. Sheriff Dep't, 6 F.3d 531, 533-34 (8th Cir.1993)). "[T]he [Supreme] Court [has] held that `work' under the FLSA means `physical or mental exertion (whether burdensome or not) controlled or required by the employer and pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer and his business.'" Id. (quoting Tenn. Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Muscoda Local No. 123, 321 U.S. 590, 598, 64 S.Ct. 698, 88 L.Ed. 949 (1944)). Indeed, "the Court counseled that the determination of what constitutes work is necessarily fact-bound." Id. (citing Armour & Co. v. Wantock, 323 U.S. 126, 133, 65 S.Ct. 165, 89 L.Ed. 118 (1944); Skidmore, 323 U.S. at 136-37, 65 S.Ct. 161).
When courts evaluate which hours should be compensated as work, "the answer depends [in part] upon the degree to which the employee is free to engage in personal activities during periods of idleness." Skidmore, 323 U.S. at 138, 65 S.Ct. 161 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Supreme Court has further clarified:
Armour, 323 U.S. at 133, 65 S.Ct. 165.
Where employees have faced significant restrictions for the benefit of their employer, meal periods have been considered compensable work under the FLSA.
During such periods when "workers [were] restricted to the site for the purpose of performing valuable security service for the company," the Second Circuit
Similarly, here, Plaintiffs have alleged that they are required to remain at the correctional facility during their meal period to be available to assist in security measures. Indeed, state regulations require certain staffing levels be maintained at correctional facilities at all times.
The Majority distinguishes this case from Alexander v. City of Chicago—where the Seventh Circuit reversed the district court's entry of judgment on the pleadings—based on the fact that, there, "police officers were required to receive permission to take a meal period and were not permitted to read `nondepartmental publications.'" Majority Op. at 157. Although the police officers in Alexander faced additional prohibitions relating to their personal behavior, they were subject to several of the same restrictions on activity and movement that Plaintiffs face here. There, during meal times the police officers: (1) had to remain within their assigned district; (2) had to remain in uniform; (3) could not nap or rest; and (4) were required to respond to emergencies and requests for assistance from the public. 994 F.2d at 334-35. Here, Plaintiffs: (1) had to remain within the prison; (2) had to remain in uniform; (3) could not sleep; and (4) were required to respond to emergencies. App. 24, ¶¶ 27-34. As in Alexander, Plaintiffs are required to maintain a physical and mental readiness primarily for the benefit of their employer. Therefore, the Majority's reliance on Alexander to compel a different result here is misplaced.
II. The Majority's Reliance on
Leahy Is Factually and Legally Flawed.
The Majority also relies on Leahy v. City of Chicago to support its misguided
Further, Leahy's holding is questionable post-Wright because Wright did not address whether the plaintiffs had exercised a "clear and unmistakable waiver" of their statutory right to a federal forum. See Wright, 525 U.S. at 81-82, 119 S.Ct. 391. Indeed, no court of appeals has followed Leahy in the nineteen years since it was issued. Two of our sister circuits have addressed Leahy, and each has squarely rejected its holding. The Fifth Circuit dismissed Leahy, noting, "[n]ot only is the majority position `preposterous,' it completely ignores the Supreme Court's decision in Barrentine" because, "[u]nder Barrentine,  the plaintiffs' right to pursue a suit under the FLSA is completely independent from their rights under the CBA." Bernard, 154 F.3d at 263-64 (footnotes omitted) (quoting Leahy, 96 F.3d at 235) (Cudahy, J., dissenting). The First Circuit also rejected the Leahy analysis, observing that it "conflates contractual rights with statutory ones." Manning, 725 F.3d at 52 n. 9. Given the paucity of support for Leahy and the likelihood that its holding did not survive Wright, the Majority's reliance on Leahy to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims is mistaken.
In their Complaint, Plaintiffs set forth sufficient allegations to state a claim that their meal period should be considered compensable work under the FLSA. For this reason alone, their claims should not have been dismissed. Further, while discounting Plaintiffs' factual allegations, the Majority decides this matter by overvaluing the CBA's compensation provisions—disregarding relevant Supreme Court precedent in the process. Ending this lawsuit now is clearly improper. I respectfully dissent.