I was recently asked at a union meeting whether any laws in Ohio provide recourse to a railroad worker who was not paid 1 ½ times his regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of eight hours. The short answer, unfortunately, is no. The reasons, in Ohio and also other states, are explained below.
Ohio Revised Code §4111.03(A) requires employers to pay one and one-half times an employee’s wage rate for any hours worked in excess of forty hours in a given workweek. (Unlike some other states, Ohio does not mandate overtime pay for extra hours worked in a day; the protection only applies to the 40 hour workweek.) The law exempts from its coverage, however, any employee that is also exempted from the overtime provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, at 29 U.S.C. §207 and §213. Buried within these federal exemptions, at §213(b)(2), are employees “of an employer engaged in the operation of a rail carrier subject to part A of subtitle IV of Title 49,” which includes almost all major railroads in the United States. The analysis in Ohio, and any other states that adopt the FLSA exemptions, is therefore easy — railroad workers are specifically exempt from protection, meaning they have no statutory right to be paid more than their hourly rate for hours in excess of 40 in a week.
Some other states have previously tried to pass laws protecting railroad workers’ rights to receive overtime pay. These attempts have also been unsuccessful. In R.J. Corman Railroad Co. v. Palmore (6th Cir. 1993), 999 F.2d 149, for example, the railroad challenged a Kentucky state overtime law that did not exempt workers in the railroad industry. The railroad argued that the issue of wages and hours in the rail industry is covered by federal law, and states cannot impose their own rules. Kentucky argued that since there is no federal rail law the expressly addressed overtime either by providing for or forbidding it, there is no conflict with its regulation. The court adopted the railroad’s position, and held that the Kentucky law, as applied to railroad workers, was preempted by federal law. Although there was no federal statute that directly conflicted with the state regulation, the court concluded “that the congressional purpose behind the Adamson Act [establishing a basic 8 hour workday in the rail industry] and Congress’s longstanding decision to regulate railroads on a national level make it reasonable to infer that Congress has impliedly preempted the area of overtime regulation for railroad employees.” Id. at 154. The Kentucky overtime law, like Ohio’s, did not apply to workers in the rail industry.
Like other issues dealing with wages and hours, the only remedy available for a railroad worker who is not paid overtime is the grievance procedure set forth in the Railway Labor Act. Although the law does not require payment of overtime, collective bargaining agreements in the industry certainly do.