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D.Kan.: “A & P Mechanic” Was Non-Exempt; Learned Professional Exemption Was Inapplicable, Because Plaintiff’s Work Was Routine Mechanical Work

Dressler v. Kansas Copters and Wings, Inc.

This decision was rendered following a bench trial.  Plaintiff an “A&P Mechanic” sought unpaid overtime pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  The Defendant asserted that Plaintiff was exempt from overtime under the professional exemption.  Rejecting Defendant’s assertions, the Court ruled that Plaintiff was not professionally exempt, because his job duties did not meet any of the duties requirements for the application for such exemption.

Reciting its findings of fact, the Court stated:

“Plaintiff David Dressler is a certified A & P mechanic. After graduating from high school, plaintiff joined the United States Marine Corps. For five years, plaintiff worked as an aviation hydraulics mechanic in the Marines. Plaintiff then worked several years as a dental assistant. In January 2005, plaintiff enrolled in the Aviation Institute of Maintenance. Plaintiff obtained his A & P certification in August 2006. Plaintiff was then employed by Midwest Corporate Aviation and Wells Aircraft. On March 15, 2008, plaintiff applied for a position with Kansas Copters & Wings, Inc.

Kansas Copters is a factory authorized dealer and service center for the Robinson R22 helicopter. The president of the company, defendant Earl Schreiber, decided to offer plaintiff a position because of plaintiff’s experience with helicopters in the military and his education. On March 21, plaintiff signed an employment agreement with Kansas Copters. Plaintiff additionally signed a non-compete agreement in which he agreed to not accept employment for any company that offers the same services as defendants.

The employment agreement states in pertinent part:

Your primary function would be to work as an A & P mechanic. All of our employees are responsible for facility maintenance and janitorial duties…. You may be required to work on your days off and/or holidays from time to time. You will be required to travel and attend courses as needed by the company.

Should you terminate your employment we require a thirty (30) day advance notice. Any notice of less than thirty (30) days and/or employment of less than three years would require for you to reimburse the company(s) any funds spent on your training, attending courses, and any other expenses …

As such, the starting salary for this overtime exempt position considering your qualifications is $600.00 per week … Compensatory time is earned hour for hour for every hour in excess of Sixty (60) hours per work week…. The company(s) reserve the right to withhold compensatory time and/or regular pay, and/or vacation time and/or holiday pay in the amount equal to what the company(s) have paid for aforementioned training and expenses, etc., until you have served at least three (3) years continued employment.

Earl Schreiber drafted the employment agreement after consulting with his attorney. Schreiber determined that an A & P mechanic at his company would be exempt from the overtime provisions in the FLSA due to the specialized training and unique services offered by defendants. In making his determination, Schreiber researched the issue of overtime by reviewing brochures from the federal government and browsing the internet. Schreiber also contacted other businesses which contracted with Robinson aircraft. Schreiber learned that these businesses also paid their mechanics a weekly rate. Schreiber therefore determined that the position of an A & P mechanic would be exempt from overtime.

Plaintiff’s work at Kansas Copters was supervised by Laurence Schreiber, who was also an A & P mechanic. Plaintiff was required to perform routine maintenance on Robinson helicopters. Plaintiff was also required to diagnose issues that arose with Kansas Copters’ customers’ aircraft for non-scheduled maintenance. Plaintiff would adjust flight control surfaces, make repairs and adjustments to the engine, and replace parts. Plaintiff would then certify whether the aircraft was safe for flight. In addressing and diagnosing problems, plaintiff would review the flight history and utilize the manuals that were specific to the aircraft. Plaintiff did not deviate from the manuals. Plaintiff did not modify the flight systems and he was not hired to design modifications to the aircraft.

In addition to making repairs at the airport in Augusta, plaintiff was also expected to service Robinson helicopters at other locations. On one occasion during his employment, plaintiff traveled to Nebraska to make repairs on a Robinson helicopter. Plaintiff was also required to perform maintenance on the facility. Plaintiff would clean the floors, paint the hangar and pull weeds. All employees at Kansas Copters were required to assist in the upkeep of the facility. Plaintiff was required to do this type of work when he was not working on a helicopter.

Plaintiff’s work schedule initially required him to work from 8 a .m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Plaintiff then attended the Robinson Training Course in California during the week of May 11. After returning from the course, plaintiff was certified to work on Robinson helicopters. Plaintiff then began working on Saturdays for eight hours in addition to his regular forty-hour work week. Plaintiff’s compensation rose to $625 a week due after successful completion of the training course.

Plaintiff’s last day of employment with Kansas Copters was August 20, 2008. Instead of issuing plaintiff his final check in the amount of $625, Kansas Copters withheld plaintiff’s pay for reimbursement for the Robinson course.”

Determining that Plaintiff was not professional exempt, the Court reasoned:

“To qualify for the learned professional exemption, an employee’s primary duty must be the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction. This primary duty test includes three elements:

(1) The employee must perform work requiring advanced knowledge;

(2) The advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning; and

(3) The advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.

29 C.F.R. § 541.301(a).

First, in determining whether the initial element is met, the court is guided by the definition set forth in the regulations:

The phrase “work requiring advanced knowledge” means work which is predominantly intellectual in character, and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment, as distinguished from performance of routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical work. An employee who performs work requiring advanced knowledge generally uses the advanced knowledge to analyze, interpret or make deductions from varying facts or circumstances. Advanced knowledge cannot be attained at the high school level.  29 C.F.R. § 541.301(b).

The testimony in this case established that plaintiff performed his position as an A & P mechanic in strict compliance with guidelines set forth by the manufacturer. Plaintiff could not deviate from the design of the helicopter or make any modifications without specific input from the manufacturer. Plaintiff’s work was routine and he worked on the same type of aircraft. The court finds that plaintiff’s work was not predominantly intellectual in character. Plaintiff’s work was routine mechanical work and therefore does not qualify for the learned professional exemption.

Even if the court were to find that the first element was met, the final two elements have not been proven. The second element is as follows:

The phrase “field of science or learning” includes the traditional professions of law, medicine, theology, accounting, actuarial computation, engineering, architecture, teaching, various types of physical, chemical and biological sciences, pharmacy and other similar occupations that have a recognized professional status as distinguished from the mechanical arts or skilled trades where in some instances the knowledge is of a fairly advanced type, but is not in a field of science or learning.  29 C.F.R. § 541.301(c).

Clearly, an aircraft mechanic does not fall into the traditional professions listed in the regulation. Defendants cite Paul v. Petroleum Equip. Tools Co., 708 F.2d 168 (5th Cir.1983) to support the position that pilots have been found to qualify for the professional employee exemption. In Paul, the court determined that flying is a field of science or learning because the pilot “must acquire extensive knowledge of aerodynamics, airplane regulations, airplane operations, instrument procedures, aeronautical charts, and weather forecasting.” 708 F.2d at 173. Plaintiff, however, is not a pilot. Plaintiff’s knowledge is not similar to what is required of a pilot. Plaintiff’s learning is of a mechanical nature and that is excluded by the regulation.

The final element has also not been met. The regulations explain the element as follows:

The phrase “customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction” restricts the exemption to professions where specialized academic training is a standard prerequisite for entrance into the profession. The best prima facie evidence that an employee meets this requirement is possession of the appropriate academic degree. However, the word “customarily” means that the exemption is also available to employees in such professions who have substantially the same knowledge level and perform substantially the same work as the degreed employees, but who attained the advanced knowledge through a combination of work experience and intellectual instruction. Thus, for example, the learned professional exemption is available to the occasional lawyer who has not gone to law school, or the occasional chemist who is not the possessor of a degree in chemistry. However, the learned professional exemption is not available for occupations that customarily may be performed with only the general knowledge acquired by an academic degree in any field, with knowledge acquired through an apprenticeship, or with training in the performance of routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical processes. The learned professional exemption also does not apply to occupations in which most employees have acquired their skill by experience rather than by advanced specialized intellectual instruction. 29 C.F.R. § 541.301(d).

While plaintiff clearly gained his education from technical school and Marine Corps experience, advanced education is not required in order to gain FAA certification. Plaintiff’s short course of training with the manufacturer of Robinson helicopters does not amount to a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction. Defendants have again cited cases which deal only with pilots. Plaintiff is not a pilot. The language in the regulation contemplates that some individuals may qualify for the exemption without formal education but then cites rare examples of occupations which routinely required advanced education. The examples cited are clearly those professions which are highly intellectual in nature and not mechanical, like that of an A & P mechanic.

The court finds that plaintiff’s position as an A & P mechanic is not exempt under § 213(a)(1) because he does not qualify as a professional.”

To read the entire decision, click here.

2d. Cir.: Question Of Joint Employer Is Mixed Question Of Law And Fact, Properly Submitted To The Jury

Ling Nan Zheng v. Liberty Apparel Co. Inc.

Plaintiffs-appellees were 25 Chinese garment workers living and working in New York City’s Chinatown. In 1999, they sued Liberty Apparel Company and its principals Albert Nigri and Hagai Laniado (collectively, “the Liberty Defendants”), and others, for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), and the New York Labor Law (“NYLL”). After a lengthy procedural history, the case went to a jury trial, and the principal issue was whether the Liberty Defendants were plaintiffs’ “joint employer” for purposes of the FLSA and New York state law claims.

The Liberty Defendants appealed that judgment.  In this opinion, the Second Circuit considered Defendants’ contention that the district court-rather than the jury-should have determined whether the Liberty Defendants were plaintiffs’ joint employer.  And on that issue, they affirmed.  The substantive law regarding the joint employment issue was discussed in a separate opinion.

After a lengthy procedural history, the defendants removed for summary judgment, and on May 23, 2008, Judge Sullivan denied that motion. Zheng v. Liberty Apparel Co., 556 F.Supp.2d 284, 287 (S.D.N.Y.2008) (“Zheng III ”). The court determined that, while there was no genuine issue of fact that the first, second, and fourth Zheng II factors weighed in the Liberty Defendants’ favor, there was a dispute of fact regarding factors three, five, and six. Id. at 289-95. On February 11, 2009, after a two-and-a-half week trial, the jury found in plaintiffs’ favor. The court denied the Liberty Defendants’ post-verdict motions to set aside the verdict and for a new trial. By final judgment entered October 26, 2009, plaintiffs were awarded $556,566.76 in damages.

Discussing the issues on this appeal, the Court framed them as: Whether “(1) the district court improperly allowed the jury to determine the “ultimate legal question” whether the Liberty Defendants were plaintiffs’ joint employer, whereas instead the court itself should have resolved that issue; (2) the district court refused to charge the jury that, as a matter of law, three of the six Zheng II factors weighed in the Liberty Defendants’ favor (to some degree); and (3) as a matter of law, plaintiffs’ evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s finding of joint employment. As to the § 345-a(1) claim, the Liberty Defendants argue that (1) the statute does not authorize a private right of action, and, alternatively, (2) whether it authorizes a private right of action raises a novel and complex issue of state law such that the district court should have declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over that claim, see 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(1).”

Holding that the Court below had correctly submitted the issue of joint-employment to the jury, the Court reasoned:

“In the context of a jury trial, the question whether a defendant is a plaintiffs’ joint employer is a mixed question of law and fact. Such questions “involve[ ] the application of a legal standard to a particular set of facts.”   Richardson v. N.Y. State Dep’t of Corr. Serv., 180 F.3d 426, 437 (2d Cir.1999) (internal quotation marks omitted). “FLSA claims typically involve complex mixed questions of fact and law….” Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight Sys., 450 U.S. 728, 743 (1981); cf. Holzapfel v. Town of Newburgh, N.Y., 145 F.3d 516, 521 (2d Cir.1998).

The jury’s role was to apply the facts bearing on the multi-factor joint employment inquiry to the legal definition of joint employer, as that term had been (properly) defined by the district court in the jury charge. “[M]ixed questions [of law and fact] are ‘especially well-suited for jury determination….’ “ Richardson, 180 F.3d at 437 (quoting Mendell v. Greenberg, 927 F.2d 667, 673 (2d Cir.1990)); see also Kirsch v. Fleet St., Ltd., 148 F.3d 149, 171 (2d Cir.1998); Simms v. Vill. of Albion, N.Y., 115 F.3d 1098, 1110 (2d Cir.1997) (“A mixed question of fact and law may be submitted to the jury only if the jury is instructed as to the applicable legal standards.”).

In the Liberty Defendants’ view, the district court should have provided a special verdict form so that the jury could detail its factual findings regarding the various joint employment factors, and so that the district court could then have applied those findings to make the final determination as to joint employment. But such a rule would distort the jury’s proper role, described above, of applying law to fact. Moreover, requiring the use of a special verdict form would be anomalous in the law, cf. Fed.R.Civ.P. 49(a); Kirsch, 148 F.3d at 171; 9B C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 2505 (“Wright & Miller”); and appellate courts rarely-if ever-vacate for failure to use a special verdict form, see Skidmore v. Balt. & O.R. Co., 167 F.2d 54, 67 (2d Cir.1948) (“[W]e cannot hold that a district judge errs when, as here, for any reason or no reason whatever, he refuses to demand a special verdict, although we deem such verdict usually preferable to the opaque general verdict.”); Wright & Miller § 2505 (“[A]s numerous courts have held, as evidenced by the many cases cited in the note below, the exercise of th[e trial court’s discretion in using a general rather than a special verdict form] is not likely to be overturned on appeal.”).

The Liberty Defendants’ reliance on language from Zheng II is misplaced. That decision recognized that the joint employment question is a mixed one of law and fact: “Finally, there is the conclusion of law to be drawn from applying the factors, i.e., whether an entity is a joint employer.”   Zheng II, 355 F.3d at 76 (emphasis added); cf. id. at 76 n.13 (noting “[t]he fact-intensive character of the joint employment inquiry”). Moreover, to the extent Zheng II contemplated de novo review of a joint employment determination, it did so only in the context of summary judgment, not a jury trial. De novo review of a jury’s joint employment determination would necessitate use of a special verdict-which, as we explained above, we do not require-and would cause the appellate court to tease apart the interwoven elements of facts and law, a project that would raise serious Seventh Amendment concerns, cf. Castillo v. Givens, 704 F.2d 181, 199 (5th Cir.1983) (Higginbotham, J., concurring)-if it could even be done.

For the foregoing reasons, we hold that the district court properly submitted the joint employment issue to the jury. The judgment of the district court is affirmed, subject to the partial vacatur and remand required by the companion summary order. The mandate shall issue forthwith.”

CareGroup, Staffers Settle Pay Lawsuit For Up to $8.5 Million, Boston Globe Reports

Today’s Boston Globe reports that:

“Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and other CareGroup Inc. affiliates have agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit against the hospital chain that alleges workers were not paid for working through lunch breaks or beyond their scheduled shifts. The settlement, if given court approval, will cover as many as 9,000 current and former CareGroup employees.

CareGroup Inc. and its affiliates — Beth Israel, Beth Israel Deaconess-Needham, Mount Auburn Hospital, and New England Baptist Hospital — will pay up to $8.5 million. The settlement will include payments to cover back wages. CareGroup and its affiliates deny any wrongdoing.”

To read the entire story, click here.

Arbitrator Rules That Massachusetts Trial Court System Must Pay Workers $30 Million In Retroactive Pay Increases, Boston Herald Reports

The Boston Herald is reporting that an Arbitrator has ruled that Massachusetts’ Trial Court system must pay its clerical workers $30 million in unpaid pay increases.

“In what is being called the costliest settlement of its type in state history, the financially strapped Trial Court system must shell out $30 million in back wages to thousands of unionized clerical workers, the Herald has learned.

In a decision reached May 7, an arbitrator ruled that the Trial Court broke its contract with Office and Professional Employees International Union, Local 6, by refusing to pay the negotiated 3 percent pay raises since 2007…

In addition to the $30 million in back pay, the Trial Court must find $17 million in unfunded raises for the union employees for the next budget year, starting in July, said Superior Court Justice Peter W. Agnes Jr., president of the Massachusetts Judges Conference.”

To read the entire article click here.

Miami-Dade County Passes New Wage Theft Ordinance, Miami Herald Reports

The Miami Herald reports that Miami-Dade “[c]ounty overwhelmingly passed a new ordinance to combat wage theft, making it easier for workers to bring legal action against employers who fail to pay them.

Thursday’s vote comes after more than a year of work by a non-governmental task force of labor and immigrant advocates in Miami. San Francisco has a similar ordinance. Los Angeles and New Orleans are considering them.”

In addition to recovering the unpaid wages that have been wrongly denied them, workers can recover 2 times that amount in additional damages.  The ordinance will result in a a low-cost administrative process that seeks to speed along claims for workers who have not been properly paid their wages.

D.Or.: FLSA Supports Award Of Attorney Fees For Post-Judgment Collection Efforts

Van Dyke v. BTS Container Service, Inc.

After plaintiff prevailed in this FLSA case, Judgment was entered for $4,724.29 and a Supplemental Judgment for $35,248.10 in attorney fees and costs.  Due to financial difficulties, Defendants failed to satisfy the judgment, necessitating Plaintiff to garnish certain monies from Defendants to satisfy the judgment.  Before the court was Plaintiff’s Supplemental Motion for Attorney Fees for Post-Judgment Collection.  The Court granted the Motion.

The Court explained, “[u]nder Oregon law, attorney fees to enforce a judgment are “legal services related to the prosecution or defense of an action” which the court may consider when it awards attorney fees. Johnson v. Jeppe, 77 Or.App. 685, 688, 713 P.2d 1090 (1986) (quoting ORCP 68).

The Ninth Circuit has not determined if the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) supports the court awarding attorney fees for post-judgment collection efforts. But cf. Jones v. Giles, 741 F .2d 245, 250 (9th Cir.1984) (finding no abuse of discretion in the size of the trial court’s $2,500 award for post-judgment attorney fees in an FLSA case without addressing whether such fees were available under the statute). Federal courts have awarded attorney fees for post-judgment collection efforts in other contexts. See Shaw v. AAA Eng’g & Drafting, Inc., 213 F.3d 538, 544-45 (False Claims Act case); Free v. Briody, 793 F.2d 807, 808-09 (7th Cir.1986) (ERISA case). I conclude that the FLSA also allows me to award post-judgment collection fees. Without such an award, a judgment is a hollow victory for a plaintiff who was improperly paid.”

Few Labor Violators Fined, Des Moines Register Reports

Today’s Des Moines Register reports that very few employers who are found guilty of violating the special Federal Minimum Wage laws, applicable to disabled workers, are actually fined as a result of their violations.

The report disclosed that, “[t]he U.S. government fined only three of the 797 employers that violated federal labor laws while paying subminimum wages to disabled workers over a five-year period.

The newly disclosed statistics come from the U.S. Department of Labor and are in response to questions posed nine months ago by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia.

Harkin has been studying the enforcement of a 71-year-old federal law that enables companies to pay disabled workers less than the minimum wage if they first obtain federal approval.

Harkin chaired a Senate committee hearing that examined why Henry’s Turkey Service was allowed to pay its mentally retarded workers 41 cents an hour to work in a turkey processing plant in West Liberty.

Critics say the new statistics confirm what they have long alleged: Companies typically have nothing to lose by violating wage-and-hour laws intended to protect disabled workers.

Harkin said Monday that there is ‘no question’ the law currently fails to provide the disabled with ‘fair employment opportunities that are sufficiently policed to prevent exploitation.’

He said he is preparing ‘substantial legislative changes’ that he expects to make public in the next few months.”

To read the entire article click here.

As Wage Theft Rises, States And Cities Crack Down, AP Reports

The AP reports that, “[a]cross the nation, the long-simmering problem of employers who don’t pay their workers appears to be getting worse, especially for immigrant laborers.

In the absence of aggressive federal action, some states and local governments have begun to tackle the issue on their own. They say employers who don’t pay overtime or minimum wage are unlikely to pay into state workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance funds — bilking taxpayers even as they’re cheating workers.

Workers rights centers say wage theft has become the No. 1 complaint they’ve heard in recent months.”

To read the entire story go to the AP’s website.

To speak with Wage and Hour Attorney Andrew Frisch call 1-888-OVERTIME or click here today.

N.D.Ill.: Idle Hours Are Compensable “Hours Worked” For Purposes Of Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), Because Compensable Under FLSA

Laborers’ Pension Fund v. Eagle America Corp.

Plaintiffs Laborers’ Pension Fund and Laborers’ Welfare Fund of the Health and Welfare Department of the Construction and General Laborers’ District Council of Chicago and Vicinity, and James S. Jorgensen, Administrator (collectively “the Funds”), brought suit against Defendant Eagle America Corporation under ERISA, 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e), and the LMRA, 29 U.S.C. § 185(a).  The Funds claimed that Eagle America violated ERISA and the LMRA by failing to make proper employee benefit contributions, failing to pay proper union dues, and failing to maintain a surety bond to guarantee the payment of wages and contributions for all “hours worked.”  The case was before the Court on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment.  Finding, in part, that Plaintiffs’ members were entitled to be paid for idle time, as “hours worked” under the FLSA, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment.

Of interest here, the Court analyzed Plaintiffs’ claims for unpaid idle hours under the framework of the FLSA, determining such hours to be compensable as “hours worked” under the FLSA, thereby finding Defendant liable for unpaid wages and benefits to Plaintiffs.

“Before determining whether there is a genuine dispute as to the accuracy of the audit reports, the Court must analyze the controversy over whether Eagle America is responsible for contributions to the Funds for every hour that a covered employee showed up to work. The controversy essentially boils down to a dispute over whether the requirement that Eagle America make contributions for “each hour worked” covers hours when employees are at the job site waiting for appliances to be delivered or loading docks and elevators to become available.

Eagle America argues that these were not “hours worked” because its employees were idle during these hours due to causes that were “unavoidable” from the Company’s perspective. The Company points to the CBA provision requiring the Company to give four hours payment for time lost to employees reporting for work who are not put to work. The Company notes that the provision contains an exception for occasions when the Company cannot put employees to work for “unavoidable causes.” The parties agree that the Company often has no control over whether appliances, elevators, and docks are available. Thus, the Company argues, because the CBA does not require the Company to pay the employees for these “idle hours,” it need not make contributions for these hours.

The Funds argue that the provision regarding “unavoidable causes” is irrelevant. Instead, they look to federal rules interpreting the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for guidance on the issue of what constitutes an “hour worked.” According to those rules, which clarify the concepts of compensable time and time worked under the FLSA, “[a]n employee who is required to remain on call on the employer’s premises or so close thereto that he cannot use the time effectively for his own purposes is working while ‘on call.’ ” 29 C.F.R. 785.17 (emphasis added). Eagle America argues that even if the Court looks to the FLSA as a guide, the question of whether waiting time is to be considered working time is a “question of fact to be resolved by appropriate findings of the trial court,” Skidmore v. Swift, 323 U.S. 134, 136-37, 65 S.Ct. 161, 163, 89 L.Ed. 124 (1944), and urges the Court to deny summary judgment on that basis.

This lawsuit does not arise under the FLSA. However, in construing the terms of a contract, the Court will take the legal framework in place into account.   Florida E. Coast Ry. Co. v. CSX Transp., Inc., 42 F.3d 1125, 1129 (7th Cir.1994). The Court may assume that the parties understood the law in effect at the time of the CBA’s execution and interpret the term accordingly. Id. at 1129-32 (construing settlement agreement not to apply in situations where it would be illegal). Thus, the Court will assume that the parties intended the CBA to require Eagle America to compensate its employees for all hours that are compensable under the FLSA.

The Skidmore Court refused to “lay down a legal formula” as to which “waiting hours” are compensable, holding that courts must address the issue as a case-specific question of fact. 323 U.S. at 136-37, 65 S.Ct. at 162-63. While the interpretive rule cited above is more specific, it does not bind the Court. Brigham v. Eugene Water & Elec. Bd., 357 F.3d 931, 940 (9th Cir.2004) (citing U.S. v. Mead Corp., 533 U.S. 218, 232, 121 S.Ct. 2164, 150 L.Ed.2d 292 (2001)). Nonetheless, courts have frequently looked to the rules for guidance in disputes under the FLSA, id. (compiling cases), and, as the rule suggests, the question of whether an employee must remain on or near the premises while waiting is often a factor in the courts’ determinations. See, e.g., Armour & Co. v. Wantock, 323 U.S. 126, 133-34, 65 S.Ct. 165, 168-69, 89 L.Ed. 118 (1944) (affirming judgment in favor of firefighters who could spend time on call playing cards and engaging in other “amusements,” but who were required to remain on premises); see also Owens v. Local No. 169, Ass’n of W. Pulp & Paper Workers, 971 F.2d 347, 351-54 (9th Cir.1992) (compiling factors, distinguishing cases in which employees had to remain on, near, or were frequently called back to premises). In cases where on-premises hours were not considered “working hours,” the workers were allowed to use their time on premises for long resting periods, eating, and engaging in recreational activities. See, e.g., Allen v. Atl. Richfield Co., 724 F.2d 1131, 1137 (5th Cir.1984) (reversing summary judgment to plaintiffs because they were “free to sleep, eat at no expense, watch movies, play pool or cards, exercise, read, or listen to music during their off-duty time”); Rousseau v. Teledyne Movible Offshore, Inc., 805 F.2d 1245, 1248 (5th Cir.1986) (affirming dismissal of claim by plaintiffs who were “free to sleep, eat, watch television, watch VCR movies, play pingpong or cards, read, listen to music, etc….[and] seldom or never did any physical work after their shift ended”).

In this case, Eagle America has provided no facts to call into dispute whether the “idle hours” spent on the jobsite by its employees were in fact “hours worked.” Instead, the Company points to the contract language regarding “unavoidable cause” and stresses that this is a question of fact. However, Eagle America cannot survive the summary judgment phase of these proceedings merely because there is a question of fact involved. The Court will deny summary judgment if there is a “genuine issue as to [a] material fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Eagle America is correct that in instances of uncertainty regarding whether “hours waiting” are “hours working” the Court “must take account of the arrangement plaintiffs themselves chose.” Binges v. Sacred Heart St. Mary’s Hospitals, Inc., 164 F.3d 1056, 1059 (7th Cir.1999). In other words, the Court will look to the CBA in cases of uncertainty. However, given Eagle America’s failure to put forward any facts regarding the freedom its workers have while waiting for deliveries, loading docks, and elevators, the Court does not find uncertainty in this case.

Assuming for the moment that there is some level of uncertainty, however, and that the CBA is relevant, the Court does not stray from its decision. The Company reads the referenced CBA provision to apply to situations when employees are waiting for elevators and the like. However, the Court reads the provision differently. The provision, which appears under the heading “Reporting for Work,” applies to employees “reporting for work” but “not put to work.” The CBA generally requires Eagle America to pay these employees four hours’ worth of pay for “lost time.” Under the Company’s reading, employees would receive this four hours’ pay regardless of whether they were sent home immediately or were sent home after waiting on the jobsite for eight hours. Or, in the case at issue here, when the Company does not put an employee to work for an “unavoidable cause” such as a late delivery, the employee might be paid nothing for waiting eight hours. The provision makes much more sense if it applies only in situations when an employee is sent home and unable to work the hours that he or she expected to work and not in situations when the employee is required to remain on premises waiting for hours at a time or waiting for minutes between tasks for an entire day.

This reading of the provision finds support in the text of the provision itself. While the Company focuses on the fact that it need not provide any pay in instances of “other unavoidable cause,” the CBA also exempts the Company from paying employees when they are not put to work because of “weather conditions, fire, [or] accident.” In cases of inclement weather, however, the CBA requires the Company to pay employees for hours spent waiting for the weather to clear up. Moreover, in the provision regarding inclement weather, the CBA alternatively refers to “reporting pay” as “show up” pay. These provisions lend a great deal of support to the notion that the parties to the CBA intended for the “Reporting for Work” provisions to require four hours’ pay for employees who “show up” for work but are sent home. They also support the notion that the parties intended workers to get paid for hours spent waiting. Finally, the Court finds further support in the fact that the CBA provides specific exceptions for “weather conditions, fire, [or] accident,” but not for the circumstances at issue in this case. If all parties understood that employees would regularly be required to wait for elevators, loading docks, and deliveries, and they intended for those circumstances to be covered by this provision, it seems unlikely that they would not have included an explicit reference to those circumstances.

The FLSA overrides contracts, so agreements such as the CBA are only relevant in close cases. Dinges, 164 F.3d at 1059. Eagle America has not placed material facts in this case in dispute, and it is therefore not a close case. Furthermore, the Court’s interpretation of the CBA favors the Funds. Thus, even making all inferences in favor of the Company, the Court can resolve this question of fact on summary judgment.”

Thus, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Funds on the issue of liability.

Wal-Mart To Pay $40 Million To Massachusetts Workers For Off-the-Clock Work Claims, Boston Globe Reports

The Boston Globe is reporting that the United States’ largest retailer, Wal-Mart has agreed to settle a collective action in Massachusetts for approximately $40 Million.

“Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, has agreed to pay $40 million to as many as 87,500 current and former employees in Massachusetts, the largest wage-and-hour class-action settlement in the state’s history.

The class-action lawsuit, filed in 2001, accused the retailer of denying workers rest and meal breaks, refusing to pay overtime, and manipulating time cards to lower employees’ pay. Under terms of the agreement, which was filed in Middlesex Superior Court yesterday by the employees’ attorneys, any person who worked for Wal-Mart between August 1995 and the settlement date will receive a payment of between $400 and $2,500, depending on the number of years worked, with the average worker receiving a check for $734…

The Massachusetts case is similar to many others that have been brought against the retail behemoth by employees across the country, most alleging that the Bentonville, Ark.-based company violated laws by requiring employees to work through breaks, to work beyond their regular shifts, and similar practices. Wal-Mart has denied the allegations, but in December, the merchant agreed to pay up to $640 million to settle 63 federal and state class-action wage-and-hour lawsuits.”

To read the full story go to the Boston Globe website.

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