Bridges v. United States

Decision Date29 November 2022
Docket Number2022-1140
Citation54 F.4th 703
Parties Robert BRIDGES, Mark Cote, Joshua Fish, Randall Hall, Brian Ackley, Erik Anderson, Taylor Arbuckle, Darlene Beck, Christopher Boertje, De'Lano Boles, Robert Cundiff, Aaron Fulsome, Marc Harper, Paul Herrmann, Nicholas Izydorek, Michael Kohlman, Luke Langmeyer, Ryan Lea, Troy Licata, Raymond Materni, Kenneth Maxie, Ricky Myers, Richard Nation, Graham Nichols, Jorge Otero, Mark Roche, Samuel Rutter, Edward Sadzewicz, Randall Sizemore, Nicholas Slocum, Corey Smith, Anthony St. Clair, Patrick Styles, Daniel Swetz, James Torres, Robert Tucker, Jonathon Tull, Salatiel Vasquez, Matthew Wert, Patrick Wilson, Travis Witter, James Hermansen, Plaintiffs-Appellants v. UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Federal Circuit

54 F.4th 703

Robert BRIDGES, Mark Cote, Joshua Fish, Randall Hall, Brian Ackley, Erik Anderson, Taylor Arbuckle, Darlene Beck, Christopher Boertje, De'Lano Boles, Robert Cundiff, Aaron Fulsome, Marc Harper, Paul Herrmann, Nicholas Izydorek, Michael Kohlman, Luke Langmeyer, Ryan Lea, Troy Licata, Raymond Materni, Kenneth Maxie, Ricky Myers, Richard Nation, Graham Nichols, Jorge Otero, Mark Roche, Samuel Rutter, Edward Sadzewicz, Randall Sizemore, Nicholas Slocum, Corey Smith, Anthony St. Clair, Patrick Styles, Daniel Swetz, James Torres, Robert Tucker, Jonathon Tull, Salatiel Vasquez, Matthew Wert, Patrick Wilson, Travis Witter, James Hermansen, Plaintiffs-Appellants
v.
UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee

2022-1140

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.

Decided: November 29, 2022


David Ricksecker, McGillivary Steel Elkin LLP, Washington, DC, argued for plaintiffs-appellants. Also represented by Gregory K. McGillivary.

Robert R. Kiepura, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by Reginald Thomas Blades, Jr., Brian M. Boynton, Patricia M. McCarthy.

Before Newman, Lourie, and Prost, Circuit Judges.

Prost, Circuit Judge.

Robert Bridges et al. (collectively "Appellants" or "officers") filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ("Claims Court") arguing that their federal employer must compensate them for certain travel time under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"), see Pub. L. No. 75-718, 52 Stat. 1060, and governing Office of Personnel Management ("OPM") regulations. The Claims Court disagreed and granted the government's motion for summary judgment. Bridges v. United States , 156 Fed. Cl. 129 (2021). We affirm.

BACKGROUND

I

Appellants are correctional officers at a federal prison in Milan, Michigan. They typically work in eight-hour shifts, two types of which are relevant here: a regular prison shift and a voluntary overtime hospital shift. The prison shifts are scheduled two weeks in advance through a roster system, but the hospital shifts are scheduled differently because they arise only when a prison inmate is transferred to a local hospital for care.

Since the need for hospital shifts varies depending on how many inmates are in the hospital and how long the inmates stay for

54 F.4th 705

treatment, the officers’ supervisors create hospital shifts as needed. And when there is a need, the supervisors turn to a list of correctional officers who volunteered to be contacted about these overtime shifts, which provide overtime pay. The supervisors then run down the list of officers and contact each officer one-by-one, starting at the top. Once an officer accepts the voluntary shift, that officer is placed at the bottom of the list.1

It takes about twenty minutes to drive from the prison to each of the local hospitals, and prison shifts and hospital shifts are currently staggered by one hour.2 For example, for a prison shift that runs from 10:00 p.m. on a Monday to 6:00 a.m. the following Tuesday, the nearest-in-time hospital shift would start at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday. An officer might work a prison and hospital shift back-to-back, or an officer could end a prison shift on Tuesday at 6:00 a.m. and then volunteer for the hospital shift that starts at 3:00 p.m. later that day. At issue in this case, though, are only the back-to-back prison and voluntary hospital shifts.

II

Appellants filed a complaint in the Claims Court asserting that, pursuant to the FLSA and relevant OPM regulations, the prison must compensate them for the travel time between a prison shift and a hospital shift, where these shifts are back-to-back and the hospital shift is voluntary. The officers asserted that this travel time is a "principal activity," travel during a "continuous workday," or other "hours of work," for which the FLSA mandates compensation.

Appellants and the government filed competing motions for summary judgment. The Claims Court granted the government's motion and denied Appellants’. The officers appeal, and we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(3).

DISCUSSION

We review the Claims Court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Loc. Okla. Bank, N.A. v. United States , 452 F.3d 1371, 1376 (Fed. Cir. 2006). Because the Claims Court properly determined that the FLSA does not mandate compensation for the travel time at issue as a matter of law, we affirm. Appellants’ travel time is not (I) a "principal activity," see 5 C.F.R. § 550.112(a) ; (II) travel during a "continuous workday," see IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez , 546 U.S. 21, 37, 126 S.Ct. 514, 163 L.Ed.2d 288 (2005) ; or (III) other "hours of work," see 5 C.F.R. §§ 551.401(a), 551.412(a), 551.422(a).

I

The FLSA requires that employers pay covered employees for all "hours of work," including time spent performing "principal activities." See 5 C.F.R. §§ 551.401(a), 551.411(a). "Principal activities are the activities that an employee is employed to perform." Id. § 550.112(a). Appellants assert that their travel between a regular prison shift and an immediately following voluntary hospital shift is such a principal activity. We disagree.

54 F.4th 706

The Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 indicates that the officers’ travel in this case is at least one step removed from their principal activities. See Pub. L. No. 80-49, 61 Stat. 84 (codified at 29 U.S.C. §§ 251 – 62 ). Congress passed the Portal-to-Portal Act in part to explicitly exclude certain travel from the employer liability created by the FLSA. Relevant here, the Portal-to-Portal Act clarifies that travel "to and from the actual place of performance of the principal activit[ies]" is not hours of work. 29 U.S.C. § 254(a)(1). Here, no one disputes the officers perform their principal activities at the prison and local hospitals. And therein lies at least one degree of separation: Congress distinguished the "to and from" travel between such places from the places themselves, where "the principal activit[ies]" are "perform[ed]." Id. That means the officers’ travel in this case cannot be part and parcel of their principal activities.

Even Appellants appear to admit that their principal activities don't include this travel: they repeatedly characterize their principal activities only as guarding inmates and providing security. See Appellants’ Br. 34; Reply Br. 7; see also Bridges , 156 Fed. Cl. at 135 ("The parties appear to agree that a [p]rison employee's principal activity is guarding prisoners ...."); J.A. 8. And that makes sense. Appellants are, after all, correctional officers in a prison. Guarding inmates and providing security is the kind of work they are "employed to perform." 5 C.F.R. § 550.112(a).

Appellants nevertheless argue that their travel is a principal activity under 5 C.F.R. § 550.112(a). See Appellants’ Br. 34 ("[T]he correctional workers’ principal activities ... start[ ] at the prison and end[ ] once relieved from the hospital overtime assignment."). For this assertion, the officers rely on §§ 550.101(c) and 550.112(a), which provide that "activities performed by an employee during periods of irregular or occasional overtime work authorized under [ 5 C.F.R.] § 550.111" are included in "[t]ime spent in principal activities," id. § 550.112(a), "for the purpose of" computing hours of overtime work, id. § 550.101(c). The officers argue that the travel at issue here is "during" their overtime hospital shifts, which are "authorized under § 550.111." See Appellants’ Br. 32 ("The hospital assignments and related travel at issue...

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