Akpeneye v. United States, No. 20-1622 (Fed. Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Pentagon Force Protection Agency officers filed claims for overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 207(a)(1). Officers worked 8.5-hour shifts, with two 35-minute breaks, and were compensated for their entire shift except for one 30-minute meal period. Plaintiffs argue that they did not receive a bona fide meal period because they were required to work during breaks; they were not allowed to leave the Pentagon or remove their uniforms, nor to congregate in public or publicly engage in leisure activities. While on break, they had to remain ready to respond to emergencies, which occurred frequently. If an officer responded to an emergency during both break periods (unable to take a bona fide meal break), an overtime request was granted for one break period. Officers were to constantly monitor their radios and respond to questions from other employees or members of the public, which occurred frequently but could be avoided by going to a break room. They often used breaks for processing paperwork, completing mandatory training courses online, and refueling Pentagon vehicles.
The Federal Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. The Claims Court properly used the predominant benefit test and considered whether the employees were required to perform any “substantial duties” or give up a “substantial measure” of time and effort during a meal break, correctly focusing on “actual obligations,” rather than witness characterization. In the totality of the circumstances, Plaintiffs were the primary beneficiaries of their meal breaks.