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Start of shift & safety equipment Kentucky

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  • Start of shift & safety equipment Kentucky

    I'm a coordinator in a union shop and have a question regarding a court ruling.

    For the past two weeks I have had employees leaving the break room late for the start of shift or coming back from breaks or lunch. In the morning I wrote down the names of everyone I saw coming out of the break room late. It was a total of seven people.

    I talked to the Union rep and told him I would like to issue verbal warnings to all seven employees. He agreed and we started talking to each employee. One of the employees waits until 8am to get his safety glasses out of his locker then walks over to our offices to get ear plugs. Most employees usually have this equipment on them, with them, or at their work station. He told me that according to a ruling from the Supreme Court issued between Ford and the UAW he wasn't required to get his safety equipment until after the start of shift.

    I vaguely remember reading something about that a few years ago. It had something to do with Ford's painters having to spend almost an hour to get ready for the start of work and not getting paid for it. In this employees case it might take him a minute or two. We have several different types of earplugs including reusable types and the disposable that he uses.

    I guess my question is does that rule apply? Our contract with the Union says: "Every employee shall be ready for work at the employee's designated shift starting time. Tardiness will not be tolerated, either at shift starting time or after the lunch break." So, does that ruling apply or is it something he is taking out of context. I've looked a little and I can't even find what he's talking about.

    Thank you


  • #2
    There have been a couple of rulings about donning PPE, but I am pretty sure the time involved was a lot more extensive than getting some safety glasses out of a locker.
    Senior Professional in Human Resources and Certified Staffing Professional with over 30 years experience. Any advice provided is based upon experience and education, but does not constitute legal advice.


    • #3
      Here's the thing, you can discipline him for taking too long to get the glasses and ear plugs. While you technically might have to pay for this time, if he is required to have these things with him at the start of his shift, which given the nature of the PPE is entirely reasonable, at most you are looking at a minute to put them on. The law does not require you allow him to take as much time as he wants to retrieve the items, only the time it takes to don and doff them. Since even the world's slowest employee can put on a pair of safety glasses and ear plugs in about 30 seconds, it really shouldn't affect the start time for his job.

      If he isn't required to keep the glasses in his locker or walk all over the building for the ear plugs, you can rightfully require him to have them with him at his work station and put them on nad be ready to work at 8. Time spent getting to the workstation is not compensible except in extraordinary circumstances.
      You don't have to start paying an employee from the moment they darken your doorway, only when they begin to perform work at your direction.
      I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


      • #4
        Thanks for the advice. It wasn't so much I was wanting to write him up as I was wanting to know what he was telling me was true or not. I had talks with several employees that morning and all went well until it got to him. I didn't know the answer at the moment so I told him to go back to work. Even the greivance officer looked at me after he left and said he didn't know where he came up with that! So I figured I would do some investigating. The employee in question had been union president for 20yrs. and knows his stuff. Every time I talk to him I usually have to have my "i's" dotted and "t's" crossed.

        My main concern is not wanting all my other employees who don't do this to start.


        • #5
          The cases the employee is likely referring to are Abdela Tum et al. vs. Barber Foods Inc. and IBP Inc. vs. Alvarez et al. in the 1st and 9th Circuits respectively, though consolidated by the Supreme Court.
          I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.


          • #6
            Thank you for the case names Ellen!

            After checking the case names you gave me it led me to this WHAM.

            If I am reading it right it says it isn't covered because it falls under De Minimis Activities and I think this passage also covers it:

            However, donning and doffing of required gear is within the continuous workday only when the employer or the nature of the job mandates that it take place on the employer’s premises. It is our longstanding position that if employees have the option and the ability to change into the required gear at home, changing into that gear is not a principal activity, even when it takes place at the plant. See FOH section 31b13 (dressing at home is not compensable).

            We don't require our employees to keep their safety equipment on premises. I have a couple who walk out wearing their safety glasses and ear plugs all the time. Many of them wear their prescription safety glasses all the time. Technically, the time he takes isn't much but it's more a matter of principle for me.

            Thank you once again



            • #7
              You're upset because it takes him a minute or two to don his PPE? Come on! That's ridiculous. Work includes time involved in donning PPE, so if he chooses to wait until his scheduled start time to don his PPE, then so be it. By everything you state, he is ready to work on time.
              My intention is not to argue over who is wrong/right. I am here for the discussion and to learn and teach. If you dislike what I have to say or think I question you when I shouldn't, then by all means add me to your ignore list.


              • #8

                I probably am going a little too far with it. I will say nothing is going to change either. I'll probably allow him to still get his stuff out of his locker in a reasonable amount of time. It is more a matter of principle to me. In our meeting he told me about this "rule" from Ford. I asked him for some sort of proof or where I could find it. He told me he didn't have to. He said it was up to management to know the rules. So I've taken it upon myself to find out the facts. Later that day I was joking with him that he made it up. He said he didn't, so I just wanted to know what the law states. You might think I'm nit-picking, but I am just wanting to have a very clear definition of it. Like I said I have to dot my i's and cross my t's with him. Believe me, I'm not much of a hard ***, I haven't issued a written warning (the only ones that count) to any of my employees in three years.

                Plus, this doesn't have as much to do with him as it does my new employees. I have two workforces. The old group and the new. In the old group, my youngest employee has been on the job 37 years. This guy belongs to this group. My company is getting ready for a new buyout of the old group. Hopefully they'll take this one. The last buyout offer from two years ago wasn't well received because it wasn't as good as the one offered 12yrs. ago. So it's been hell on my floor ever since.

                My family has owned the company where they work for 122yrs. I consider most these guys family... at least until I got the factory coordinator job
                The new group was just brought in this past year. With the new group came a different contract for them. As a side note, in the new contract employees must be on the job within one minute of start up. That's all it says, so it could be taken a minute before or after. So this ruling has an effect on them.

                Well, because of the failed buyout (the year we offered it, we lost 15m) many of the older employees felt cheated that they gave so much in the new contract for the new employees. So I have been challenged on a great many things. I always want to make sure I have the contract, state, or federal law behind me. So it isn't really a matter of "getting" him, I really want to know if what he was saying was true and is it supported by the law.

                I must say the older guys have been a great learning tool to learn how to manage the new group.

                Junior Member
                Last edited by BMH; 02-10-2007, 09:09 PM. Reason: trying to clarify some of my ramblings...


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