Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Third Circuit Rules Employers Can't Claim Credits Against FLSA Violations Based on Paid Meal Periods

Employees at a DuPont manufacturing plant spent between 30 and 60 minutes each shift donning and doffing protective gear without compensation.  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the employees were entitled to overtime compensation for this work.

The employer tried to avoid its overtime liability under the FLSA by arguing that it should be allowed to offset the paid meal period it had agreed to provide its employees against the donning and doffing time.  The paid meal periods were not required under the FLSA to be treated as hours worked, but the employer had agreed to a policy treating them as such.

The court held nothing in the FLSA authorized the type of offsetting the employer claimed.  The FLSA explicitly states an employer may use certain compensation already given to an employee as a credit against its overtime liability, but the credits are limited to categories of compensation that are “extra compensation provided by a premium rate", such as daily overtime.  The court refused to allow any credit, holding that nothing in the FLSA permits employers to credit compensation that it included in calculating an employee’s regular rate of pay against its overtime liability.   Pay for the meal breaks was included in the employees’ regular rate of pay, and thus could not qualify as “extra compensation.”

This decision clarifies an important issue that arises in FLSA damage calculations wherein employers seek credits for any compensation agreements or policies that exceed FLSA minimums.  This decision confirms that employers can not claim a credit against their FLSA violations simply because they have agreed to compensate idle time, such as meal periods where employees are relieved of all duties.