Riverboat Casino Crew Exempt form FLSA Overtime Rules

November 19, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal appeals court has ruled that employees of a riverboat casino qualified for a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exemption on overtime pay because they were considered 'seamen.'

>Twenty-one employees of the Riverboat Services Inc. claimed that they were entitled to overtime pay because the ship they worked on, which catered to Indiana gamblers on Lake Michigan, was in port 90% of the time, according to Thompson.com.   The riverboat company claimed that they were exempt from paying overtime due to FLSA rules.

>The FLSA requires that employees be paid time-and-a-half for hours worked over 40 in a week, but it has exceptions for seamen. In affirming a lower court’s ruling, the US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that although the boat was usually docked, the employees performed the same duties as seamen – keeping the ship afloat, cleaning the outside of the ship, and keeping the engines in repair – they should be classified as such.

“A blackjack dealer does not become a seaman by virtue of leaving his job at [a] land-based casino and taking a job at [a] riverboat casino, but likewise a helmsman does not cease to be a seaman because he transfers to a casino boat that spends most of its time moored,” wrote Circuit Judge Richard Posner in his ruling. The court affirmed the ruling of the lower court, stating that the employees were in fact seaman and were not qualified to receive overtime pay.

>The case, Harkins v. Riverboat Services Inc., is at http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/op3.fwx?submit1=showop&caseno=03-3624.PDF .