How many times have I written about working time cases, so called “off the clock” cases, where the claimed compensable time arises from preliminary or postliminary activities that are tied to (or not) the main job of the workers. Another example. A group of employees at a coating manufacturing company are alleging that they were shorted pay for alleged indispensable tasks before shift, such as putting on and taking off protective clothing. Another donning-and-duffing case. The case is entitled Ruffa v. Ferro Corp. and was filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
The lead plaintiff claims the workers had to report early to put on the clothing, as well as getting their work assignments and then walking to their workstations. The employer, he claims, only started paying when the shift started. He asserts that, as a result, ¼ hour per shift was unpaid. The Complaint alleges that the “plaintiff and other manufacturing/production employees were required to arrive at work early and perform their pre-shift work before their scheduled start times. However, defendant did not pay them for this pre-shift work.” The Complaint also makes the necessary allegation that “the time plaintiff and other manufacturing/production employees spent … was an integral and indispensable part of their principal activities, was required by defendant, and was performed for defendant’s benefit.”
The Company, according to the Complaint, manufactures paint and similar materials for use by other manufacturers. This work necessitates that the workers put on and take off protective clothing. There are a number of clothing items and gear (e.g. helmets, gloves, boots, safety glasses, earplugs, respirators) that are necessary to safely perform the work. The gear is important to the employees’ jobs and also required by OSHA to “keep the production floor safe and helped promote a more safe and efficient manufacturing/production process” according to the Complaint. The workers also must receive daily assignments before their shifts start and to take a shower at the end of their shifts.
The lead plaintiff charges that the Company would only pay for the scheduled shift hours. In other words, the Company would only “start the clock” when they were at their workstations, after completing the preliminary tasks. The Complaint asserts (as it must) that these activities were “intrinsic elements of their principal activities and ones with which plaintiff and other manufacturing/production employees cannot dispense if they are to perform their principal activities.”
This case is further complicated for the employer because Pennsylvania has gone beyond the FLSA and requires payment for “all hours worked,” such as waiting in line to go through security lines. If these activities are necessary for the performance of the main job, then the only defense is de minimis, i.e. that these activities only took a moment or a fleeting amount of time and are therefore non-compensable.
Wouldn’t want to put all my eggs in that basket…