Jury Awards $22M in Back Pay Verdict, Biggest Ever Win by Labor Department

May 12, 2023

A federal court jury has awarded back wages of more than $22 million to the U.S. Department of Labor for more than 7,500 employees working for East Penn Manufacturing Co. Inc. — one of the largest battery manufacturers — after the department proved that the company failed to pay them overtime pay.

The Department of Labor said that the award by the 12-member jury marks the largest recorded verdict under the Fair Labor Standards Act obtained by the department.

DOL said it intends to ask the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to award an equal amount in liquidated damages for the affected workers.

The department will also seek an injunction requiring future FLSA compliance by the Lyons Station, Pennsylvania, manufacturer.

In an earlier summary judgment ruling, the court found that East Penn violated the FLSA’s overtime requirement by failing to pay uniformed workers for all actual working time.

A 30-day trial ended when the jury found that the battery manufacturer was required to pay the affected workers for all of their working time, resulting in overtime violations. Typically, East Penn paid workers only for their 8-hour scheduled shift. The employer did not pay for additional time employees needed to put on and remove protective equipment and to shower to avoid the dangers of lead exposure and other hazards. Federal law requires employers to include all hours employees worked and to pay an overtime premium for hours over 40 in a workweek.

This historic jury award follows a 2016 investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division and subsequent litigation.

The verdict ends a trial in response to the department’s March 2018 complaint against East Penn Manufacturing in federal district court. During the trial, the department presented testimony from 39 employees confirming they and other co-workers performed unpaid work.

Employer time records showed East Penn did not pay employees based on their actual clock-in and clock-out times. The records also showed how the company would adjust times to pay employees only for their scheduled shift, and how East Penn did this every day and for every employee.

“Decades of settled law states that employers must pay employees for all hours worked, and this includes the time employees spend changing into and out of uniforms and showering where such activities, as here, were necessary and indispensable to their work. Contrary to the law, East Penn allowed employees to work off-the-clock for years,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda.

Source: Department of Labor

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