The Third Circuit unanimously reversed a district court’s decision that allowed an employer to use paid bona fide meal time to offset unpaid overtime. Three DuPont employees sued the Pennsylvania manufacturing plant for unpaid overtime under the FLSA because the employer failed to compensate them for donning and doffing time and for time spent on “shift relief,” i.e. sharing information with incoming shift employees at the end of their shifts.
The district court acknowledged that “[t]he FLSA does not expressly grant employers permission to use paid non-work time to offset unpaid work time,” but nevertheless held that the “offset was not specifically prohibited,” and granted summary judgment in favor of DuPont, because they had compensated plaintiffs for bona fide meal breaks.
In rejecting the district court’s ruling, The Third Circuit relied on Wheeler v. Hampton Twp. and the Ninth Circuit’s holding in Ballaris v. Wacker Siltronic Corp. holding that an employer cannot use paid non-working meal beaks to offset overtime because the meal time was paid at the regular rate, while the overtime must be paid at the premium rate. The Court reasoned that permitting DuPont to use pay given for straight time as an offset against overtime pay amounts to “creative bookkeeping” that would undermine the FLSA’s broad purpose.
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Innessa Melamed is an Senior Associate in Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP’s New York office and focuses her practice on employment law and wage and hour class action litigation.
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