Ferreras v. American Airlines Inc, No. 18-3143 (3d Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
American’s timekeeping system calculates employee pay only for the duration of their shifts, excluding an automatic 30-minute meal break deduction. If an employee clocks in before the shift begins or clocks out after the shift ends, the system assumes that the employee only worked during the shift, rather than working during those “grace periods.” If employees actually work during grace periods or meal breaks, American requires them to seek approval of an “exception.” A purported class of non-exempt, hourly employees at American’s Newark station asserted violation of the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law (NJWHL). American argued that employees arrived early and left late for various reasons and engaged in personal activities before and after their shifts, so the court would have to engage in individualized inquiries to determine when a particular employee was not compensated for periods during which he was actually working while clocked in. The district court certified the class, identifying common questions: whether hourly-paid American employees are not being compensated for all hours worked due to the system and whether American is violating the NJWHL by imposing a schedule-based compensation system that permits a supervisor to authorize compensation for work performed outside of a scheduled shift, but discourages employees from seeking such authorization. The Third Circuit reversed. Several of the requirements of Rule 23, including commonality and predominance, were not met. Determining when each employee was actually working will necessarily require individualized inquiries.