Magazine article Workforce Management

Clock Starts at Safety Station, High Court Says

Magazine article Workforce Management

Clock Starts at Safety Station, High Court Says

Article excerpt

WAGE AND HOUR LAW

Companies that require employees to put on layers of protective gear to perform their jobs may decide to move time clocks closer to work areas and knock down walls to ease access to those locations in the wake of a recent Supreme Court action.

In its first decision since Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. assumed leadership of panel, the court ruled earlier this month that workers at IBP Inc., a meat processing firm in Pasco, Washington, must be compensated for the time spent walking from a safety station to their jobs. Citing a 1956 precedent, the court upheld a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a separate but related case, the Supreme Court ruled that employees do not have to be paid for the time they spend waiting to put on their first piece of protective gear.

The decisions will force companies to rethink some plant practices. Companies that don't react to the decision by examining their timekeeping and payroll practices will be "easy pickings" for plaintiffs' attorneys, says Chris Lauderdale, an employment law attorney at Jackson Lewis in Greenville, South Carolina.

Companies might have to put time clocks in safety equipment rooms, move those rooms closer to work areas and perform time-and-motion studies. Workers might have to learn more efficient routines.

It's difficult to determine the total cost to businesses as a result of the ruling. Slaughterers and meatpackers make an average of $10 an hour. Estimating 15 minutes each day for the time spent getting from the safety equipment room to the time clock-some of it probably at overtime rates-it could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra compensation for a company. …

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