May 19, 2023: A US federal court jury has awarded overtime pay of more than $22 million for over 7,500 East Penn Manufacturing workers, following a lawsuit over the time allowed for putting on and taking off uniforms.
The Department of Labor (DOL), which brought the case, said on May 10 the award marked the largest recorded verdict it had obtained under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
DOL said it also intends to ask the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to award an equal amount in liquidated damages for the affected workers.
The jury found that East Penn had typically paid workers only for their eight-hour scheduled shift and did not pay for extra time needed to put on and remove protective equipment and to shower.
US federal law requires employers to include all hours employees worked and to pay an overtime premium for hours over 40 in a workweek, DOL said.
However, East Penn noted in a statement issued on May 10 that the DOL had originally claimed the firm owed the employees — who worked for East Penn in Lyon Station, Pennsylvania from November 2015 to September of 2021 — over $214 million in back wages.
The jury also found that East Penn did not act in a knowing or reckless disregard of the law, the company said.
East Penn said it had made every effort to comply with the laws as it understood them. As a company, it stands behind the time paid to employees to put on and take off uniforms and to shower.
The company believes it provided proper compensation for these activities and was fair in determining the reasonable time required to perform them.
The verdict ends a trial in response to a complaint brought by the DOL in March 2018.
East Penn said the amount of the ultimate judgement is subject to further argument to the trial judge and adjustment. In addition, either the company or DOL may file an appeal.
“East Penn greatly appreciates its family of employees who diligently work to support and sustain the company and provide the essential products that help power people’s lives,” the company said.