According to a recent Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, an employer does not violate the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when the employer makes a change of workdays which results in decreased overtime pay to employees. Roy Abshire, et al. vs. Redland Energy Services, LLC.
Redland Energy Services drills and services natural gas wells throughout the state of Arkansas. Drill crew operators, which the appellants were, worked 12 hour shifts for 7 consecutive days, followed by 7 days off. The 7 day workweek went from Tuesday through Monday. This allowed drill operators to have one weekend off every two weeks. Other Redland employees worked a traditional Monday to Friday schedule in a Sunday to Saturday workweek. When Redland decreased the number of drilling crews from five operators to four, it changed the drill operators’ workweek to Sunday to Saturday. Because the drill operators still worked Tuesday to Monday, their number of overtime hours decreased since their work week was now split between two payroll periods.
The drill operators sued claiming the workweek change now gave them only 20 hours of paid overtime. That because they still actually worked 84 or more hours of overtime within a workweek, the change was solely for the purpose of not paying overtime which violated the FLSA. The district court granted Redland’s motion for summary judgment and the drill operators appealed.
In support of its motion for summary judgment, Redland presented evidence that putting all employees on the same workweek increased efficiency because it reduced the time it took the office manager to prepare payroll from five to two days a month. It also decreased payroll expense by reducing the number of hours that drill operators had to be the FLSA-mandated overtime rate.
The Court of Appeals noted that the Department of Labor has interpreted the FLSA to prohibit employers from changing the beginning of the workweek if it is intended to evade overtime requirements. However, the FLSA does not require a workweek schedule that maximizes an employee’s accumulation of overtime pay. Thus, a schedule whereby an employee’s actual work schedule is split between two workweeks does not violate the FLSA. District court opinion affirmed.
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