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JUSTICES SIDE WITH HARDSCAPE DEALER HALUCH GRAVEL IN UNION PENSION CASE

The Supreme Court has reversed a U.S. Court of Appeals decision for plaintiffs (Funds), led by the Central Pension Fund of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which had pursued additional contributions and reimbursement of litigation expenses from Ray Haluch Gravel Co. Ludlow, Mass.-based Haluch Gravel petitioned for review of technical questions on whether the Funds’ appeal of a U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts (Boston) order were timely or untimely under federal rules. According to counsel Mayer Brown: The petition centered on the appealability of federal trial court decisions in cases where a party has requested an award of attorney’s fees. The Supreme Court held that a district court’s decision leaving unresolved a request for contractual attorney’s fees is a final decision subject to immediate appeal.

In the Ray Haluch Gravel Co. et al v. Central Pension Fund of International Union of Operating Engineers and Participating Employers et al opinion, the Supreme Court reverses the Court of Appeals and remands the case to the District Court in Boston. The opinion notes that the latter court determined in June and July 2011, respectively, that Funds were entitled to a) an additional $26,900 in pension contributions, lower than an unspecified target amount; and, b) attorney’s fees and costs of $34,700, against the $143,600 net reimbursement they sought.

Haluch Gravel has had collective bargaining agreements with the Operating Engineers. Members are engaged in aggregate production for a retail business, Haluch’s Landscaping Products, whose
hardscape program includes paver and segmental retaining wall products from such leading brands as Belgard, Bolduc, Ideal, Keystone, Pavestone and Techo-Bloc. The Funds initiated an audit
of the producer’s bargaining unit payroll and pension plan contributions in 2007. Haluch refused to honor requested increases, prompting a federal lawsuit where the Funds alleged Employee Retirement Income and Security Act and Labor Management Relations Act violations. — U.S. Supreme Court; Oyez Archive/Kent College of Law, Chicago; and, Mayer Brown, Washington, D.C.


DONNING SAFETY GEAR OFF THE CLOCK

In a late-January decision for the respondent in a federal labor law case, Sandifer et al v. United States Steel Corp., the Supreme Court held on lower court findings that time United Steelworkers members “spend donning and doffing their protective gear is not compensable.”

Citing Fair Labor Standards Act provisions, Clifton Sandifer and others—all current or retired U.S. Steel crew members—sought back pay for time spent changing into protective gear, typically including flame-retardant jacket, pants, and hood; hard hat and “snood;” “wristlets,” work gloves, earplugs, safety glasses and respirator; plus, leggings and “metatarsal” boots.

U.S. Steel prevailed in U.S. District Court, which found that protective gear “donning and doffing” time—otherwise compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act—is noncompensable under a provision of a collective bargaining agreement with the petitioners’ union. A Court of Appeals upheld the District Court judgment, prompting the steelworkers’ petition for High Court review.