Collective Bargaining Agreement Trumps State Wage And Hour Law

It is well known that the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prevails over any contrary provision in a collective bargaining agreement, to the extent that the agreement calls for lower compensation than that mandated by the FLSA. But what if the wage and hour law is not the FLSA, but instead is found in state statutes? The results seemingly vary from state to state as to whether a collective bargaining agreement is enforceable even if it provides for compensation lower than a state wage and hour law.

The Ohio Court of Appeals recently took the position that a collective bargaining agreement can supersede even provisions of Ohio’s wage and hour law that are more generous than those found in the agreement. The case involved the ironically-named Anthony Lucki, a corrections officer at Ohio’s North Central Correctional Institution. Lucki sued the State under the state wage and hour law, claiming that he was not paid at the overtime rate for all post-shift work.

The Court of Appeals noted that both the state law and the collective bargaining agreement addressed the issue of overtime compensation: “The collective bargaining provides that employees are entitled to compensation for overtime work, so that ‘hours in an active pay status of more than forty (40) hours in any calendar week shall be compensated at the rate of one and one-half (1 1/2) times the employee’s total rate of pay for each hour of such time over forty (40) hours. The contract further defines active pay status ‘as the conditions under which an employee is eligible to receive pay and includes, but is not limited to, vacation leave, and personal leave. Sick leave and any leave used in lieu of sick leave shall not be considered as active pay status for purposes of the contract.

“The overtime provisions in the state wage and hour law and the contract conflict. State law requires an employer to provide for over-time compensation in the manner prescribed by the FLSA; the collective bargaining agreement does not. The state law mandates overtime compensation for ‘hours worked’ in excess of 40; the collective bargaining agreement requires overtime compensation for ‘hours in active pay status’ greater than 40. When a conflict exists, the collective bargaining agreement prevails.

“Finally, policy reasons support these principles. Not only is arbitration a favored policy in labor disputes, but to hold otherwise in a wage-and-hour dispute would require the parties to anticipate every possible permutation and resulting point of disagreement and then include it in the agreement to achieve the required specificity that would assure resolution through the grievance and arbitration provisions of the agreement. The agreement addresses overtime compensation, plaintiff’s claim raises an issue of overtime compensation, and it matters not that the agreement fails to specify the particular ten-minute period at issue here. As a result, the agreement’s provisions on grievance and arbitration govern resolution of the dispute.”

Lucki v. Ohio Dept. of Rehab & Corr., 2011 WL 4985824 (Ohio App. 10 Dist. 2011).

The article appears in our January 2012 issue.