The "early bird" and "late owl" can become an overtime problem in FLSA law

by on April 1, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Work before and after shifts is paid time in most cases in FLSA law

When call-center workers were asked to perform a few tasks before and after their shifts, most didn’t mind. After all, these pre- and post-shift tasks did not take very long.

However, a few employees figured they should be getting overtime for this extra work. They contacted the DOL, which launched an FLSA compliance investigation.

They were right. The employer owed a whopping $5.1 million in back wages to 25,351 current and past call-center employees.

Few companies have that many employees. But all it takes is one who’s asked to work “off the clock.” And no employer needs surprise penalties.

That’s why it’s a good idea to review FLSA compliance standards with line managers.

Cite: DOL v. Cingular Wireless.

FLSA law and the work clothes question

Here’s another case where an employer misinterpreted FLSA law about donning protective gear.

A manufacturer of silicon wafers thought it wasn’t required to compensate employees for time spent donning “bunny suits” – special gear worn in “clean rooms” with fewer air impurities than ambient air.

The bunny suit gowning procedure took up to 30 minutes. Employees filed a Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit and won their rights to bunny suit donning and doffing pay.

Rule of thumb: If workers change into work clothes for their own convenience (so street clothes don’t get dirty, for example) employers need not pay for donning and doffing.

But if they change into work clothes for their safety or because the business requires it (a “clean room” for example), the employer must pay for donning and doffing time.

Cite: Ballaris v. Wacker Siltronic Corp.

Prep time is payable under FLSA law

Time that employees spend setting up their work may be payable time under FLSA guidelines, DOL recently reminded us all.

Health insurer Humana agreed to pay $1 million in back wages to call-center reps who DOL said weren’t paid for time worked. The time in question was spent powering up equipment, logging on to the computer network, and calling up programs they needed to do their jobs.

Cite: DOL v. Humana.

313K bill for overtime violations of FLSA law

Gung-ho workers who can’t wait to get started are great. But employees who regularly began working before their scheduled start time ended up costing an Alabama firm dearly.

The company was socked with a $313,000 bill for back overtime when DOL found out what was going on. Obviously, the company was trying to do the right thing: DOL said the workers were properly paid for the scheduled overtime.

Cite: DOL v. Vintage Pharmaceuticals

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