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May 01, 2012
Hot Dog Vendors Burned Up Over Rest Period Deduction

Hot dog vendors employed by The Ohio State University (OSU) were unable to take rest breaks due to the nature of their jobs. So, when OSU started making deductions for rest breaks, the employees complained.

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What happened. “John,” “Stanley,” and “Keith” were subject to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between their union and OSU. They were required to work from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.—generally 5 days a week.

OSU started deducting 30 minutes from each workday for rest breaks beginning in March 2007. The employees challenged this practice, contending that they were not being compensated for all time worked. They filed suit, arguing that OSU failed to pay them both the minimum wage for time worked and overtime wages for hours worked in excess of 40.

OSU filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims. The trial court agreed, and the claims were dismissed. John, Stanley, and Keith appealed to the Court of Appeals of Ohio.

What the court said. The appeals court reversed the decision, saying that OSU mischaracterized the hot dog vendors’ claims as relating to rest breaks. “In our view, OSU’s argument is misplaced. Indeed, nowhere do… [John, Stanley, and Keith] argue that they should have been granted rest breaks. Rather, they seek the compensation allegedly due for having worked through rest breaks.”

Although CBAs govern the wages, hours, and terms and conditions of public employment, the appeals court said “that when a collective bargaining agreement leaves unaddressed a matter that state or local laws do address, R.C. 4117.10(A) indicates that the state or local laws would generally apply with respect to ‘wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment.’” In addition, “when a conflict exists, the collective bargaining agreement prevails unless one of the exceptions in R.C. 4117.10(A) applies.”

Because OSU failed to file the relevant evidence pertaining to the employees’ actual claims (i.e., Article 12 of the CBA, entitled “Hours of Work and Overtime”), the court said it cannot determine whether a conflict exists between the CBA and state law. As a result, based upon the evidence submitted, the appeals court said the trial court erred in concluding that the employees’ complaint failed to raise any cognizable claims. Pierce, et al. v. The Ohio State University, Court of Appeals of Ohio, 10th Appellate District, No. 11AP-345 (3/13/12).

Point to remember: Rest break policies should comply with state law and the terms of any relevant collective bargaining agreements.

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