Pyramiding overtime – Employer challenges arbitrator’s award

The cba between Armstrong Memorial Hospital and Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals provides, in relevant part, that overtime will be paid after 40 hours worked in any work week. The contract also provides that “Nothing contained herein shall be construed to require overtime pay more than once for the same hours worked, or pyramiding of overtime or premium pay of any kind.” This language had remained unchanged for more than 20 years.

A dispute arose concerning the pay treatment for an employee who worked during Christmas week  2016. Christmas that year fell on a Sunday. Pursuant to the cba, several holidays, including Christmas, “are also counted as hours worked for the purpose of overtime.”  Employees were to receive holiday pay at the straight time rate for holidays not worked. Employees who worked the holiday would receive, in addition to the holiday pay, time and one-half for all hours worked. Grievant received holiday pay for Christmas day. In addition, because she worked that day, she received  pay at time and one-half for the hours actually worked. The dispute between the parties turned on whether the eight hours of holiday pay for Christmas, which she would have received whether she worked or not, were to be counted toward the 40 hours worked in a week.  If it counted, it would have allowed her to earn the overtime rate for several hours worked later in the week which would otherwise have been payable at the straight time rate.

The Union claimed that the Christmas holiday should have been counted as time worked for purposes of calculating overtime. It did not claim that the hours actually worked and paid at the overtime rate should be part of that calculation. The Hospital asserted that “the Grievant was paid eight hours of holiday pay as well as eight hours of ‘holiday worked’ pay at a premium rate … for her work on Christmas … . [S]he seeks to have that same eight hours count again toward a weekly total in excess of 40 hours, thus qualifying her for overtime pay for hours worked later in the week.” It claimed that this position was contrary to the cba “which proscribes the pyramiding of overtime or premium pay of any kind.”

The dispute was submitted to Arbitrator Matthew Franckiewicz for resolution.

Arbitrator Franckiewicz upheld the Union’s grievance. After reviewing arbitration decisions going back to 1951, he found “no consensus among arbitrators as to what ‘pyramiding’ means.” Turning to the facts of the case, and the language of the cba, Arbitrator Franckiewicz concluded that

Under the literal language of Section 10.3 holiday hours are counted as hours worked for the purpose of overtime. I cannot read an ‘unless’ into this language. 

He further concluded that counting the 8 hours of holiday pay towards the 40 hour threshold for overtime did not constitute pyramiding, observing

[t]he Union does not seek to count both the hours actually worked and the holiday pay hours, only the latter. So counting only one set of hours, paid at straight time, would not violate the no pyramiding provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

Finally, the Arbitrator found no evidence of a past practice which would have clarified the parties intent or understanding. Accordingly he sustained the grievance. His award can be found here.

The Hospital has filed complaint with the District Court seeking to have the Court vacate the award as contrary to the clear language of the cba, and an improper modification of the parties’ agreement.
Source: ADR