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Agee v. Wayne Farms LLC
The litigation in this case arises from the allegations that the Defendant has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) by failing to compensate a number of its employees for work-related activities. See generally29 U.S.C.S. § 201 et seq. The Plaintiffs in this case contest a specific pay practice: the use of a master time card to track the work hours of employees assigned to a processing line at the Defendant’s Laurel, Mississippi plant. The Plaintiffs contended that this pay practice allows the Defendant to forego paying them for time spent on activities that are compensable under the FLSA. The case was before the Court on Defendant’s motion for partial summary judgment. Finding that Defendant’s could not properly off-set time worked by Plaintiffs but not properly paid by Defendant, the Court denied Defendant’s Motion.
The Plaintiffs filed this action against Wayne Farms claiming violations of the minimum wage and maximum hour (overtime) requirements of the FLSA. see29 U.S.C. §§ 206, 207. In their motion for summary judgment, Defendant contended that the Plaintiffs’ complaints ignored Defendant’s practice of paying each employee for 11 extra daily minutes in addition to those minutes actually worked. Six of these eleven extra daily minutes are paid as “personal time.” Defendant alleged that it “adds another five paid minutes to each day by giving Laurel plant employees a thirty-five minute lunch break, while deducting only thirty of those minutes from paid time.” Defendant contended that when the additional 11 daily minutes are factored in, the 17 Plaintiffs listed above no longer allege viable FLSA claims.
Addressing this argument, deemed one of first impression by the Court, the Court explained, “[e]ven assuming that Wayne Farms has established that there is no genuine issue of material fact, this Court cannot grant the instant motion for summary judgment unless it is convinced that Wayne Farms is also entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED R. CIV. P. 56(b). Wayne Farms has failed to cite even a single legal authority supporting its contention that it need not compensate its employees for work performed but can simply credit it against payments made to its employees for a paid lunch period or a paid personal time period . In light of Wayne Farms’ utter failure to cite legal authority in support of its contention, combined with the results of the Court’s independent research, the Court is not convinced that Wayne Farms would be entitled to judgment as a matter of law even if the facts of the case are as Wayne Farms represents them to be.
The question of whether an employer can lawfully credit “personal time” payments and “paid lunch” payments against compensation due to the employees under the FLSA appears to be one of first impression in this district. The Court notes, however, that one district court in this circuit has considered and rejected a similar argument. In addition, at least one circuit court has rejected a similar argument.
Section 207(h) of the FLSA governs compensation creditable toward minimum wage and overtime compensation. See§ 207(h)(1). Generally, “sums excluded from the regular rate … shall not be creditable” toward such wages. Id. Instead, only the “[e]xtra compensation paid as described in [§ 207(e)(5)–(e)(7) ] shall be creditable ….” § 207(h)(2).Sections 207(e)(5) through (e)(7) list only the “extra compensation provided by a premium rate” and are therefore inapplicable in the case at bar. As a result, the Court concludes that § 207(h) prohibits the manner of offsetting that Wayne Farms seeks to employ.
In Duplessis v. Delta Gas, Inc., 640 F.Supp. 891 (E.D.La.1986), a district court in this circuit interpreted § 207(h) with similar results. In Duplessis, the defendants sought “a credit against [the] plaintiffs’ award of overtime compensation for the extra compensation paid for nonproductive time and year end bonuses.”Id. at 896.Noting that the payments made were not “related to the performance of overtime, and instead [were] ‘payments made for occasional periods when no work is performed’ ” the Duplessis court held that the payments were not creditable as overtime. Id. at 897 (citing §§ 207(e)(2), (e)(3), and (h)).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that an employer could not “lawfully credit the ‘paid lunch’ time payments against overtime compensation due the employees.” Ballaris v. Wacker Siltronic Corp., 370 F.3d 901, 903, 913-14 (9th Cir.2004). In Ballaris, the plaintiff employees received two meal periods: a 30-minute unpaid meal period and a 30-minute paid meal period. Id. at 906.The court noted that “the parties treated the half-hour paid lunch period as non-working time.”Id. at 909.Consequently, the court found “that the payments for the lunch periods constituted an additional benefit for employees and not compensation for hours worked.”Id. Denying the defendant’s request to credit the “paid lunch” compensation against the compensation required by the FLSA, the court relied primarily on § 207(h).See id. at 913-14.The court noted that “compensation for paid lunch periods is excluded from the regular rate under section 7(e)(2)” and that, as a result, any “offset of wages or overtime compensation due for hours worked is in direct violation of the express provisions of section 7(h).”Id at 913.In addition, the court noted that such a practice “would undermine the purpose of the FLSA” and would constitute a “false and deceptive ‘creative’ bookkeeping.” Id. at 914.
As these non-binding cases are consistent with this Court’s interpretation of the FLSA, the Court concludes that the motion for summary judgment should be denied.”