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California Employer Failed To Properly Pay Overtime Wages To On-Duty Employees

Published by on March 10, 2011

Plaintiffs were former employees of defendants Metson Marine, Inc., and Metson Offshore, Inc.  While employed by defendants, plaintiffs worked consecutive 14-day “hitches” on defendants’ ships off the shore of California providing emergency clean up of oil spills and other environmental hazards.   More after the break. During these hitches, plaintiffs were paid for 12 hours a […]

Plaintiffs were former employees of defendants Metson Marine, Inc., and Metson Offshore, Inc.  While employed by defendants, plaintiffs worked consecutive 14-day “hitches” on defendants’ ships off the shore of California providing emergency clean up of oil spills and other environmental hazards.   More after the break.

During these hitches, plaintiffs were paid for 12 hours a day, regardless of whether they performed any work during their shifts.  During the other 12 hours of each day, plaintiffs slept aboard the ship and were required to remain on “stand by” and within 30-45 minutes of the ship at all times.  Plaintiffs filed a complaint against defendants, alleging defendants failed to properly calculate overtime wages for the seventh consecutive day worked and for the 12 hours each day of a hitch that plaintiffs were on call.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, holding that defendants’ compensation practices complied with the requirements of the California Labor Code.

The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment in favor of defendants and held defendants failed to establish that they had correctly compensated plaintiffs for all hours worked.  First, the Court of Appeals held that defendants impermissibly designated the workweek in such a way as to circumvent the statutory requirement to pay overtime rates for the seventh consecutive day.  The Court of Appeal further held that the restrictions placed on plaintiffs during their on-call hours subjected plaintiffs to defendants’ control for the full 14-day hitch, and therefore, the on-call hours constitute time worked.  However, the Court of Appeal found that plaintiffs were not entitled to compensation for 24 hours per workday.  Because California law authorizes employers to enter into an agreement with their 24-hour employees to exclude eight hours of sleep time each day and the undisputed evidence established that the parties had such an agreement, the Court of Appeal concluded that plaintiffs were entitled to compensation for an additional four hours — not 12 hours – for each day worked.    

To read the Court of Appeal’s decision, click here

Contributed by Laura B. Chaimowitz

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