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LOPEZ v. ART KRAFT CONTAINERS

May 20, 1987

Baltazor Lopez, et al.
v.
Art Kraft Containers, Corp., et al.


Katz, J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KATZ

KATZ, J.

 In this case of first impression, I determine that "up front" bonus payments under collective bargaining agreements are part of the base to calculate overtime even though the union and the employers agreed that there would be no "roll up" of the lump sum payments. The issue is whether the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (the FLSA) obligates defendant employers to include lump sum payments in the regular hourly rate of compensation for the purpose of calculating overtime pay. The FLSA requires that an employee who works more than forty hours per week be paid an overtime rate of "one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed." 29 U.S.C. § 207(a)(2). The "regular rate" at which an employee is paid is defined as "all remuneration for employment paid to, or on behalf of, the employee." 29 U.S.C. § 207(e). The statute specifically excludes from the "regular rate":

 
payments made for occasional periods when no work is performed due to vacation, holiday, illness, failure of the employer to provide sufficient work, or other similar cause; reasonable payments for traveling expenses, or other expenses, incurred by an employee in furtherance of his employer's interest and properly reimbursable by the employer; and other similar payments to an employee which are not made as compensation for his hours of employment.

 29 U.S.C. § 207(e)(2). Defendants contend the lump sum payment is included within this statutory exception; plaintiffs contend that it is not.

 Further issues to be resolved, if liability is established, are the method by which damages are to be calculated, and whether liquidated damages are to be awarded to plaintiffs under 29 U.S.C. §§ 216 and 260.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. The United Paper Workers International Union Local 375 (the "Union") represents each of the plaintiffs in this action in collective bargaining. Each of the defendants maintains a collective bargaining agreement with the Union which covers employees engaged in the production of corrugated paper products.

 2. Defendants Chesapeake Corrugated Container Company, Owens-Illinois, Inc., Stone Container Corporation (East Plant) and Willamette Industries negotiated collectively as members of the Philadelphia Container Association (the "Container Association"). From May 1984 through July 13, 1984, the Container Association negotiated with the Union.

 3. Stone Container Corporation (West Plant) is essentially the same corporate entity as Stone Container Corporation (East Plant). Stone West was acquired from another company in 1983, however, and was covered by a different collective bargaining agreement. Stone West negotiated a new agreement with the Union in August, 1984 which incorporated the same economic terms as were in the Container Association contract. Two of the principal negotiators for Stone West had been principal negotiators in the Container Association negotiations.

 4. Defendant Art Kraft, prior to 1981, was a member of the Container Association. Art Kraft's 1981-1984 collective bargaining agreement expired before that of the Container Association; a new agreement was negotiated effective April 1, 1984.

 5. Prior to 1984, the negotiated contracts had provided for annual increases in hourly wages and in other benefits paid to or on behalf of employees. In the 1984 negotiations the Defendant employers sought new contracts with no increases in the base hourly wage rates and decreased medical benefits. *fn1" These changes were designed to make employers more competitive with other corrugating companies which were paying lower wage rates.

 6. The collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the Container Association and Local 375 called for, at Article 5, a first year bonus of $ 750.00 payable as of July 1, 1984, and a second year bonus of $ 500.00 payable as of July 1, 1985. (Joint Exhibit 1). To receive the first year bonus, employees of the Container Association employers had to have been active employees for three months prior to the date of the bonus; to receive the second year bonus, they had to have been active employees for six months prior to the date of the bonus. If Container Association employees who were on lay-off or long term disability returned to active employment within twelve months following the payment of the bonus, they could receive a pro rata share of the two bonuses.

 7. The 1984 labor agreement negotiated between Stone West and Local 375 contained bonus and bonus eligibility provisions substantially identical to those of the Container Association contract. (Joint Exhibit 2). The bonus amounts were identical, and the eligibility language, found in the memorandum of agreement, (Joint Exhibit 5) tracks the Container Association ...


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