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Ruffin v. Casino

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

January 7, 2015

ANGELIA RUFFIN, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
MOTORCITY CASINO, d/b/a Detroit Entertainment, L.L.C., Defendant-Appellee

Argued, December 5, 2014

Page 808

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:12-cv-11683--Stephen J. Murphy III, District Judge.

ARGUED:

Christopher P. Desmond, JOHNSON LAW, PLC, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellants.

Eric J. Pelton, KIENBAUM OPPERWALL HARDY & PELTON, P.L.C., Birmingham, Michigan, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF

Christopher P. Desmond, JOHNSON LAW, PLC, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellants.

Eric J. Pelton, Thomas G. Kienbaum, Thomas J. Davis, KIENBAUM OPPERWALL HARDY & PELTON, P.L.C., Birmingham, Michigan, for Appellee.

Before: COLE, Chief Judge; GRIFFIN, Circuit Judge; CARR, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 809

CARR, District Judge.

 Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., an employee's meal period is compensable if the employee spends that time predominantly for her employer's benefit. Hill v. United States, 751 F.2d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1984). The question here is whether MotorCity Casino's security guards, who must remain on casino property during meal periods, monitor two-way radios, and respond to emergencies if called to do so, spend their meal time predominantly for their own benefit or that of the casino. Because we agree with the district court that no reasonable jury could find that the meal periods predominantly benefitted the casino, we affirm the grant of summary judgment to MotorCity.

I.

The plaintiffs are current and former security guards at the MotorCity Casino in Detroit, Michigan. MotorCity assigned the guards to work five, eight-hour shifts per week. While on duty, the guards were responsible for escorting large amounts of cash, monitoring the casino floor, and listening to their two-way radios. The casino also required guards to attend a fifteen-minute roll-call meeting before the start of every shift, but it did not pay the guards for doing so. Both sides agree that the roll-call meetings are compensable.

Under the parties' collective bargaining agreement, a guard working an eight-hour shift was entitled to a paid, thirty-minute meal period. The parties stipulated in the district court that guards were " free, during their breaks, to eat, drink, socialize

Page 810

with other MotorCity employees, use their cell phones, utilize the internet, watch the TVs installed in the cafeteria and various break rooms, read, use the company provided computers in the cafeteria, [and] play cards and other games[.]"

At the same time, MotorCity restricted how guards could spend their meal periods. Guards could not leave casino property, have food delivered to the casino, or receive visitors. The guards therefore spent meal periods in either a large cafeteria, where free food and drinks were available, or one of the smaller break rooms--all of which could be crowded and noisy. A smoking area was also available, and guards could walk along an outdoor path surrounding the casino.

Central to this appeal is MotorCity's requirement that the guards monitor their radios during meal periods. The guards were responsible for listening to their radios and, if they heard a dispatcher call the appropriate code, responding to an emergency in the casino (a fight, for example, or a patron experiencing a health problem). A guard who did not respond to a mid-meal emergency call was subject to discipline.

Aside from monitoring the radio, the guards performed no job duties during meal periods.

According to the parties' stipulation, " a meal period may occasionally be interrupted due to an emergency call." Security guards who lost meal time responding to an emergency were entitled to have the time made up. Guards could file a grievance if MotorCity failed to provide make-up time, but there is no evidence that a guard ever filed such a grievance.

Plaintiffs Sharise Webb and Latrina Kirby, who worked as dispatchers at the casino, testified that emergencies rarely interrupted their meal periods. Asked how often an emergency interrupted her meal periods, Webb responded, " [I]t doesn't happen very often." For her part, Kirby estimated missing fewer than ten meal periods during her eight-year tenure at the casino. Plaintiff Philip Tibbs, who ...


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