The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided Greater St. Louis Constr. Laborers Welfare Fund v. RoadSafe Traffic Sys., Inc., No. 22-1050, __F.4th__, 2022 WL 17544675 (8th Cir. Dec. 9, 2022), an ERISA case involving a dispute over unpaid benefit contributions. RoadSafe Traffic Systems, Inc. is required to contribute to four employee benefits Funds for covered employees per the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”). The Funds and Roadsafe dispute whether contributions should include all hours worked by covered employees or just hours performed by employees engaged in construction and highway work. The district court granted summary judgment to RoadSafe, finding that the CBA unambiguously requires contributions only for construction and highway work. The Eighth Circuit affirmed.
Here, RoadSafe maintained earnings records which coded all “shop hours” as nonreportable hours (“NON”). It also used NON to code non-job related shop work, traveling, filling out paperwork, and loading/unloading not related to a Prevailing Wage job. The Funds auditor believed that all loading and unloading is work covered under the CBA and, therefore, reportable. Because the loading and unloading work is not distinguished from other job duties within the “NON” category of hours, and because the Funds do not recognize “Non-Reportable” hours under the Split-Time Doctrine, the auditor concluded that all “NON” hours should be included in the “Reportable Hours.” RoadSafe disagreed and contended that NON hours are not covered by the CBA and that the loading or unloading work coded as NON only “pertain[ed] to sales orders delivered to customers or the transfer of equipment between branches.” Roadsafe did not have any documentation distinguishing sub-categories of NON time beyond the earning records. Including the NON hours but removing the NON hours where they were the only hours worked in one day, the Funds demanded a total of $105,654.96 in supplemental dues, interest, and liquidated damages.
The Eighth Circuit considered whether the CBA obligates RoadSafe to make contributions to the Funds for all or only specified types of work. Section 5.01 of the CBA establishes contribution schedules “when employees are engaged in the general activities in conjunction with Building Construction and Highway/Heavy.” “Building Construction” and “Highway/Heavy” are defined by Section 5.01 to include specific tasks. The court explained that “RoadSafe’s contribution obligations under the CBA arise in the wage schedules of Section 5.01. No Section 5.01 wage schedules mention any work other than ‘Building Construction’ or ‘Highway/Heavy.’” Work coded as NON or shop hours is not within the relevant definitions so the CBA does not require RoadSafe to make contributions for these hours. The Funds claimed that RoadSafe’s hours were not sufficiently detailed, but the court noted that the CBA did not require RoadSafe to document noncovered hours.
*Please note that this blog is a summary of a reported legal decision and does not constitute legal advice. This blog has not been updated to note any subsequent change in status, including whether a decision is reconsidered or vacated. The case above was handled by other law firms, but if you have questions about how the developing law impacts your ERISA benefit claim, the attorneys at Roberts Disability Law, P.C. may be able to advise you so please contact us.
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