Bethany Krajelis Feb. 28, 2013, 12:44pm

More than two dozen employees of Amsted Rail Co., Inc. have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to recover unpaid wages and overtime compensation.

Brought late last week, the 26 plaintiffs -- hourly employees who worked at the company’s steel foundry and manufacturing plant in Madison County -- claim that Amsted required them to work before their shifts without compensation.

Some of the plaintiffs also contend that their employer made them work after their shifts, also without compensation, performing such tasks as shutting down machinery and preparing work areas for the next shift.

The suit asserts that plaintiffs “have consistently worked ‘off the clock’ and without pay” and as such, are entitled to compensation for the time they spent working before and/or after their shifts under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

“Amsted did not accurately record all time worked by plaintiffs, and specifically did not include time they spent performing work before their paid shift, during unpaid lunch breaks, and/or after the end of their paid shift,” the suit alleges.

In addition, the plaintiffs claim in their suit that “Amsted’s time keeping system is, in effect,  an illegal rounding policy as it rounds away any time that a plaintiff clocks in before the start of a shift, but does not ever round in the plaintiff’s favor if the plaintiff clocks in after the start of a shift.”

The rounding policy, according to the suit, “works exclusively in Amsted’s favor and does not average out over time to fully compensate the plaintiffs for all time worked.”

“The net effect of Amsted’s policies and practices, instituted and approved by company managers, is that Amsted willfully failed to pay wages and overtime compensation and willfully failed to keep accurate time and/or payroll records to save payroll costs,” the plaintiffs assert in the suit. “Amsted thus enjoyed substantial ill-gained profits at the expense of plaintiffs.”

The plaintiffs’ suit includes only one count: a violation FSLA, which among other things, regulates the payment of wages worked by employees engaged in interstate commerce or the production of goods for commerce.

The suit asserts that Amsted is subject to the requirements of FSLA because it is an enterprise engaged in interstate commerce. Amsted is an international steel and train parts manufacturing company.

According to the suit, the company violated FLSA by failing to pay for overtime worked and to pay regular wages in weeks that the plaintiffs worked overtime.

As such, the plaintiffs assert they are “entitled to damages equal to pay for all regular and overtime hours worked during weeks they worked more than 40 hours and the mandated overtime premium pay within the three years preceding either the filing of this complaint of the date they originally opted-in to the case styled Marshall v. Amsted Rail Co.”

That case was filed in 2010 and remains pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, according to suit.

Electronic court documents show that a jury on Wednesday entered a verdict in Marshall v. Amsted Rail Co., finding in favor of Amsted on the plaintiffs’ overtime pay claim.

In addition, the plaintiffs assert they are entitled to “periods of equitable tolling because Amsted acted willfully and knew, or showed reckless disregard for whether, its conduct was prohibited by the FLSA.”

If the court determines that Amsted did not act willfully in failing to pay for overtime work, the plaintiffs contend they are entitled to an award of prejudgment interest at the applicable legal rate.

Missouri attorneys Richard Paul III, Ashlea Schwarz and Mark Potashnick filed the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

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