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CARTER v. PANAMA CANAL CO.

May 20, 1970

Wade V. Carter et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Panama Canal Company, Defendant


Corcoran, J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CORCORAN

CORCORAN, J.:

 I.

 The plaintiffs are towing locomotive operators employed by the defendant Panama Canal Company in the Canal Zone. They seek overtime pay of at least 15 minutes per day of allegedly compensable work computed in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 5544 for all time spent performing the activity in question since July 29, 1965.

 The defendant Panama Canal Company is a federally chartered corporation of the United States and is subject to suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia pursuant to 2 Canal Zone Code §§ 61(c) and 65(a)(3).

 II.

 To transit the Panama Canal a vessel must pass through three lockage areas, i.e., Pedro Miguel and Miraflores on the Pacific side, and Gatun on the Atlantic side. Each plaintiff works at one of the three areas on an eight hour shift.

 The plaintiffs operate electrically-driven towing locomotives to pull ships through the locks and to control the lateral movement of the ships within the lock chambers. The locomotives move on each side of a lock chamber and travel the full length of the chamber wall.

 At the end of any given work period the operator leaves his locomotive where it then is. That requires the succeeding operator to proceed to that point to assume his duties since historically the duty station of an operator has always been the locomotive to which he is assigned. However, prior to reporting to the lock area the operator knows neither the identity nor the location of the locomotive to which he is assigned for that particular work period. To learn the location and the identity of the locomotive to which he is assigned the operator must check at a lockage assignment board located within the lock area, put a mark by his name on the board, and walk to the designated locomotive.

 At Gatun the assignment board is about 75 feet from the main gate; at Pedro Miguel the assignment board is within 25 feet of the main gate; and at Miraflores the board is located in the control house some 500 feet from the main gate.

 The time consumed by an operator in walking from the lockage assignment board to his assigned locomotive varies from 2 minutes to 15 minutes per day depending upon the location of his assigned locomotive. The average time is 8 minutes.

 There is no requirement that an operator report to the assignment board. The only requirement is that he report to his duty station (his locomotive) by the time his shift begins. However, since the assigned locomotive may be located the maximum distance from the assignment board, the operator of necessity must check the board at least 15 minutes before the start of his eight hour shift to arrive at his locomotive on time.

 During the period an operator is on defendant's premises prior to reaching his duty station he is subject to defendant's rules and regulations governing employees and may be disciplined for violation of those rules. *fn1"

 For a long period prior to the commencement of this case (and at least prior to July 29, 1965) the locomotive operators and their representatives, including National Maritime Union of America, AFL-CIO, have requested the Canal Company to pay overtime for the time spent between checking the assignment board and reaching the locomotives as well as the additional time spent, prior to January 1, 1968, in checking in with the timekeeper and walking to the assignment board. The Company has rejected all formal and informal claims for this overtime compensation.

 The question before the Court is whether the activity of the plaintiffs in checking the assignment board and walking to their duty stations constitutes compensable overtime work. For the reasons ...


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