• Babcock v. Butler County, Pennsylvania
  • January 6, 2016 | Author: Francis J. DiSalle
  • Law Firm: Thomas, Thomas & Hafer LLP - Pittsburgh Office
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

    (Precedential Decision)

    No. 14-1467, 806 F.3d 153

    Decided: November 24, 2015
    • Compensability of Meal Breaks
    • Predominant Benefit Test
    • Fair Labor Standards Act
    Employees, who receive the "predominant benefit" of a meal break, are not entitled to treat the break as work time under the Fair Labor Standards Act. With this Decision, the Third Circuit joins every other court of appeals that has directly considered the issue.


    A class action was brought involving corrections officers at the Butler County Prison in Butler, Pennsylvania, claiming a failure to properly compensate for overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The issue was whether a portion of time for corrections officers’ meal periods was compensable under the FLSA.


    The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s grant of the employer’s Motion to Dismiss. The Court agreed with majority of the circuit courts of appeal in adopting the “predominant benefit test,” which considers whether the employee is primarily engaged in work-related duties during meal periods. The Plaintiffs had contended that the corrections officers may not leave the prison without permission during the meal period, and must remain in uniform, in close proximity to emergency response equipment, and on call to respond to emergencies. Plaintiffs claimed that because of these restrictions, they should be compensated for the meal period as the employer received the predominant benefit. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that although Plaintiffs faced a number of restrictions during their meal period, on balance, these restrictions did not predominantly benefit the employer.

    Practice Tip

    The Court of Appeals made it clear that the predominant benefit test is “necessarily a fact-intensive inquiry.” Thus, an employer’s particular situation should be reviewed with your labor & employment attorney to ensure compliance with the case law.