Contrary to Popular Belief, the FLSA Usually Protects the Overtime Rights of Unionized Workers

Pennsylvania employment lawyers and labor lawyers often ask me about the extent to which unionized workers are protected by the FLSA. The short answer is that the FLSA covers unionized workers so long as the overtime dispute is grounded in the FLSA rather than the collective bargaining agreement.

The following text is adopted from a legal brief I recently filed in the United States District Court in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In that case, I represent a group of unionized prison guards who allege that their employer, Lackawanna County, has violated the FLSA by failing to pay them for time spent attending mandatory, pre-shift meetings. I hope this excerpt will help Pennsylvania employment lawyers and Pennsylvania overtime attorneys in their quest to protect the overtime rights of all workers, including those in unions.

In Barrentine v. Arkansas-Best Freight System, 450 U.S. 728 (1981), unionized truck drivers brought a federal court lawsuit alleging that their employer violated the FLSA by failing to pay them for time spent conducting] a safety inspection of their trucks before commencing any trip and for time spent transporting any truck failing such inspection to [the company’s on-premises repair facility. The employer asserted that a contractual grievance process prohibited the drivers from pursuing the FLSA claims in federal court. The Supreme Court disagreed.

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