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Disgruntled District 11 Pennsylvania Employees Launch Unpaid Wages Lawsuit

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Allegheny County, PAIt was in mid-spring that some employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) quietly filed a federal Unpaid Wages lawsuit against their employer, alleging off the clock work and unpaid wages through the regular movement of department vehicles and equipment. The lawsuit, filed April 27 of this year, makes various allegations against PennDOT District 11 and four defendants.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review (4/29/16), the unpaid wages claim asserts that certain executives in District 11 instructed shop foremen not to record or document the time employees spent moving vehicles and equipment between storage facilities and work locations - events that occurred prior to or following their scheduled shifts.

The plaintiffs in the unpaid wages lawsuit - six in total - all work in Allegheny County. Their unpaid wages attorney speculates the allegations may well be confined to Allegheny County, which is overseen by a particular senior highway maintenance manager. It is presumed employees elsewhere in District 11 are paid additional wages and/or overtime when moving vehicles or equipment off the clock.

It has been reported that the donning and doffing lawsuit names four defendants: Angelo Pampena, who oversaw some 204 employees and managed a $53 million budget when Pampena was promoted to the position in 2011; H. Daniel Cessna, identified as a District 11 executive and Pampena’s superior; Scott Christie, identified as a PennDOT secretary, who was charged with overseeing highway maintenance in the district; and state Transportation Secretary Leslie S. Richards.

A donning and doffing lawsuit is so named for situations that see employees having to don and then escape from various uniforms, work clothes, safety gear and other apparatus necessary to the job at hand and mandated by the employer. This puts the employer and the employee at odds. Employers are perfectly happy with seeing their employees suited up until the proverbial five o’clock whistle blows. Then, the employee doffs the gear - which in some circumstances can be cumbersome and can take some time - off the clock, on his or her own time.

In the morning, the employer expects the employee to be suited up and ready to go when the clock strikes 9 am. This suggests the employee has to come in early and suit up, on his or her own time.

Plaintiffs bringing off-the-clock work lawsuits hold that should specialized gear be required for the job and mandated by the employer, then employees should be paid for this function as part of their workday. And the donning and doffing lawsuit has spun into other areas in the off-the-clock work world - everything from waiting in line for security checks to booting up computers or moving equipment from storage bays to the work area.

Employees feel they should be paid for that. When employers balk, employees quickly morph into plaintiffs with help from an unpaid wages attorney.

The Unpaid Wages lawsuit alleges that Cessna approved a policy requiring employees to work off the clock. The plaintiffs note that depending on distance and the traffic they may encounter, employees can wind up putting in several hours of additional time each week moving vehicles and equipment, for which they allege to have not been paid.

The unpaid wages claim is a collective action, with the plaintiffs seeking to represent anyone having worked for District 11 during the previous three years. A collective action differs from a class action, in that eligible collective members would be required to opt in to qualify for a share in any settlement. A class action, on the other hand, automatically represents anyone similarly situated unless they opt out.

The plaintiffs in the off-the-clock work lawsuit are seeking back wages for the last three years, plus damages. Case information was not available.

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