Check CBA for pay rules on safety gear prep — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Check CBA for pay rules on safety gear prep

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Sometimes it’s hard to imagine many advantages of being a union workplace, but here’s a bit of good news: At least in some limited circumstances, working under a collective-bargaining agreement gives employers some protection against Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuits that demand payment for time spent putting on and taking off protective gear at the beginning and end of the workday.

Here’s why: Even if employees and their union don’t realize it, so-called “donning and doffing” of protective clothing is a subject of collective bargaining. If an employer already has an established practice of not paying for such time, then the only way to change that is through the collective-bargaining process.

Employees and the union can’t just sue, claiming they should be paid under the FLSA. That’s different from how it works in a nonunion environment.

Recent case: A group of hourly employees and their union sued McWane Inc., a cast-iron pipe and fittings manufacturer, over pay they claimed they were due for putting on and taking off hard hats, steel-toed boots, earplugs and safety glasses at the beginning and end of their shifts.

McWane had never paid for those activities and the union had never addressed the issue during union negotiations. The employees and the union claimed they never knew such tasks might be covered as work time under the FLSA.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said the fact that the employees and union didn’t know they might have a claim under the FLSA didn’t matter. The court reasoned that they could have bargained for the time to be paid. But since they didn’t, there was an existing custom and practice that said the time was unpaid. Under those limited circumstances, McWane didn’t have to pay. (Allen, et al., v. McWane, No. 08-41037, 5th Cir., 2009)

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