Arkansas minimum wage bill advances

The Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK (AP) — The Arkansas House passed legislation that would shield businesses from liability for what employees do before and after their primary work.

The measure to amend the state's Minimum Wage Act advanced on a 92-0 vote Monday. The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Charlie Collins, said it was designed to realign Arkansas law with federal law.

The bill would also cover employees traveling to and from their place of primary work.

The measure comes on the heels of the Arkansas Supreme Court's decision last year to uphold a lower court's ruling that baby food manufacturer Gerber Products Co. had to pay more than $3 million to workers for time spent getting in and out of uniforms and protective gear.

In a 4-3 ruling, the high court said Gerber should've compensated more than 800 workers at its Fort Smith facility for the time they spent changing into uniforms, donning protective gear such as ear plugs and washing their hands, as well as undressing after their shifts ended.

The company argued the workers' union had agreed to not be paid for the time in a contract that included larger wage increases for the employees.

Justices who sided with the workers said Arkansas' Minimum Wage Act required the company to compensate for the activities despite an agreement with the union.

The three dissenting justices said the high court's decision would lead to litigation resulting in an enormous cost to businesses in the state.


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