Three workers recently sued their employer to collect overtime pay for the time they spent putting on uniforms and protective gear. But this employer had an interesting defense — that worked. 

Meet the employer: a DuPont manufacturing plant in Towanda, PA.

Meet the employees: Bobbi-Jo Smiley, Amber Blow and Kelsey Turner — all three worked 12-hour shifts at the plant from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Smiley, Blow and Turner claim DuPont required them to work, without pay, before and after their shifts to put on and take off uniforms and protective gear (i.e., donning and doffing), as well as provide shift relief (i.e., sharing work info with co-workers between shifts).

The three claimed they spent 25 minutes per day performing these pre- and post-shift duties — and they sued under the FLSA, claiming they were entitled to overtime compensation for that time.

Received paid meal breaks

DuPont fought to get their case thrown out on summary judgment.

The company’s defense: Smiley, Blow and Turner each received three thirty-minute paid meal breaks during their 12-hour shifts.

DuPont pointed out that the FLSA doesn’t require it to provide paid meal breaks, and those breaks exceeded the time the employees would’ve spent performing their pre- and post-shift duties. As a result, DuPont said it couldn’t be held liable for the overtime compensation the employees were looking to collect because the paid non-work time far exceeded the non-paid work time.

The employees didn’t dispute that they were granted three thirty-minute meal periods each day.

The ruling

A federal court in Pennsylvania agreed with DuPont and dismissed the employees’ FLSA lawsuit.

In issuing its ruling, the court pointed out that although the FLSA doesn’t specifically authorize employers to offset non-paid work time with paid non-work time, such offsets are only prohibited if either of these two scenarios plays out:

  • An employer excludes an employee’s paid non-work time from his or her regular rate of pay for the purposes of calculating overtime.
  • An employer and an employee agree to treat paid non-work time as “hours worked.”

Since neither of these applied in this case, the court said the employees weren’t entitled to extra compensation for the pre- and post-shift work they performed.

Cite: Smiley v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours and Co.

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