After two years of battle, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1010 won back overtime pay for about 700 Bureau of Prisons (BOP) correctional officers in Texas for work-related activities performed before and after a shift.
AFGE Local 1010 filed a grievance on behalf of the officers in February 2005, alleging that the Federal Correctional Complex in Beaumont, Texas, had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and other regulations when it refused to pay the officers overtime for pre-shift and post-shift activities related to their duties.
The local argued that the officers should get paid for time spent at the control center where they check in to be issued equipment such as keys, handcuffs, metal detectors, radio and restraints. They then have to walk long distances to their assigned posts where their shifts officially start. While walking to the assigned posts, the officers are also expected to take action if they spot inmate misconducts. These work-related activities before and after a shift could take 15-30 minutes or more a day and thus should be compensated for.
BOP refused to pay, saying that these activities take only a few minutes and that officers would get paid only if the work-related activities before and after a shift take up more than 10 minutes a day.
Arbitrator Bernard Marcus, however, disagreed with the agency's arguments, saying BOP has to pay employees for the hours worked. It cannot extract from its employees 9 minutes a day or 45 minutes a week of work that is compensable. "This practice not only does not comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act but is precisely what Congress intended to outlaw," he said in a 37-page decision received by AFGE Local 1010 in February.
The arbitrator said the officers are entitled to overtime pay for pre-shift and post-shift activities. He ordered BOP to pay the officers back overtime pay dating back to February 18, 2003.
AFGE applauds the decision, saying it brings the employees the justice they deserve.
"This is a major victory for us," said AFGE General Counsel Mark Roth. "...We believe there are other Institutions and agencies which have been violating the Portal-to-Portal Act, and we are asking our Councils and Locals to review the requirements to perform pre-shift and post-shift activities without compensation."