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Changing Plant Entry and Overtime Pennsylvania

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  • Changing Plant Entry and Overtime Pennsylvania

    As of January 1st our plant no longer allows most employee owned vehicles in the plant, a parking lot was set up outside and now all employees who park there walk into the plant to their job site.

    We used to be allowed to drive right to the unit we worked at in street clothes, relieve the previous shift, then change clothes. Now we walk to the Maintenance locker room (which is out of the way to some units), change clothes (we are not allowed any further than there without PPE on), then walk to our units.

    There is a required overlap between shifts to turn over control of the units which is usually only a couple of minutes but sometimes is upwards of 15 minutes. We have never been paid for this overlap unless we are asked to stay over, but we are required to stay until the relief shows up and go over any process changes, safe work permits, etc.

    I have no problem with walking in, but I am wondering if we are entitled to any overtime for changing and walking to our units. Some people work up to a half a mile (the plant is pretty big) to get to their units where before they could drive right to it.

    Answers to questions you may have:

    We clock in as soon as we enter the plant and right before we leave.

    The daylight shifts can still change on the clock and be paid for it (they do not have to wait to be relieved). So in past and some current practice people were paid for changing clothes.

    Our PPE are Nomex (fire-resistant clothing), hard hat, steel toe shoes that they allow to be worn home, but for most isn't an option due to the grease, chemicals and dust that most (but not all) people are subjected to in a normal workday.

    We have to be wearing our full PPE before entering our units which was not required before.

    The time it takes for the whole process is over 15 minutes even if there is a minimal overlap.

    Some people are required to stay in a control room until their relief arrives, while others who work in the field and have trucks can meet their relief at the gate (cutting off most of the overlap), but everyone is paid 8 hours.

    There is nothing in our contract covering any of this.

  • #2
    A short answer is "maybe". A longer answer is that if you take your check book to a lawyer they will ask which side of the issue are you on. If you tell them that you are employer, they will (for a price) give you a list a cases that given the facts as stated previous courts have said that this is not hours worked. If you instead tell the lawyer that you are the employee, then (for a price) you will be given a different set of court decisions supporting this has being paid time. Depending on exactly which court jurisdiction you are in, some cases would be given more emphasis then others.

    The technical term for the clothes part is called "donning and duffing". The secondary commute from a remote parking lot is if anything even more obscure legally. A very few times have been found to be hours worked, but this is not common. There is a lack of what is called a "bright line" test here, something that everyone can take a certain set of facts and come up with the same answer. Instead we have judges basically playing Wheel of Fortune.

    One obvious solution is to just try filing a wage claim. It works or it does not. And the legal burden of proof is on the employer to show that this is not hours worked. Or you can try talking to a local attorney. I would assume that the number of labor law attorneys in the U.S. who are really expert in donning and duffing matters is not large.
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


    • #3
      Thank you very much for the quick reply. I kind of expected that answer, but I wanted to to see what you had to say.

      As far as the overlap is concerned though, I know its not much time, but can they require us to stay more than 8 hours without pay? And if so, how long can they make us stay without paying for it? No one ever pushed this before because the company treated us very well, but with the changes they've been making few people want to give away even a little bit of time anymore.

      Thank you again for your time.


      • #4
        That is actually a very different issue. If the employer controls you staying on site, then it is legally very hard for the employer to argue that this is not paid time. I am including a pointer to a federal DOL factsheet on Hours Worked.

        Waiting Time: Whether waiting time is hours worked under the Act depends upon the particular circumstances. Generally, the facts may show that the employee was engaged to wait (which is work time) or the facts may show that the employee was waiting to be engaged (which is not work time). For example, a secretary who reads a book while waiting for dictation or a fireman who plays checkers while waiting for an alarm is working during such periods of inactivity. These employees have been "engaged to wait."
        Past that, the employer can certainly require you to stay. That is not legally an issue. The only issue is whether or not you must be paid for the time.
        Last edited by DAW; 01-26-2010, 05:09 PM.
        "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
        Philip K. **** (1928-1982)


        • #5
          Just wanted to say I am in complete agreement with you DAW on this.

          I really like the fact that you state the reality that a labor attorney is going to expect an open checkbook and a pen to accompany it. It has been my experience that when I have spoken to attorney's during the initial "free" consultation they are 100% certain they can win, once I write that retainer check it is a 50/50 (or less) chance. Funny how that works.
          Not everything in America is actionable in a court of law. Please remember that attorneys are in business for profit, and they get paid regardless of whether or not you win or lose.

          I offer my knowledge and experience at no charge, I admit that I am NOT infallible, I am wrong sometimes, hopefully another responder will correct me if that is the case with the answer above, regardless, it is your responsibility to verify any and all information provided.


          • #6
            Also, not all labor law question are equally easy to answer. Any time you do not have a "bright line" test, things get complicated, expensive and iffy. You can have the nicest and most humane lawyer in the world (anything is possible), but it still does not make for clean, simple answers for something like "donning and duffing" that the courts really do not agree on. And the chances that a lawyer who gives free consultations is really expert on something as arcane as "donning and duffing" is arguably not good.

            Something like "minimum wage" or "overtime" may indeed be bright line, and the one hour consultation (free or paid) could be worth quite a bit.
            "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
            Philip K. **** (1928-1982)