Court backs DOL in wage case against Unitil

NH Business Review
Published: 1/27/2023 5:55:26 PM

A three-panel on the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Hampton-based utility Unitil misclassified two groups of workers as overtime-exempt administrative employees.

The panel ruled that U.S. District Court Judge Landya McCafferty erred in her previous decision in the case of Walsh v. Unitil Service Corp., that Unitil dispatchers and controllers were primarily engaged in high-level administrative tasks. The ruling thus sends back the court the U.S. Department of Labor claims that the company illegally deprived those workers of overtime pay.

The opinion, issued Jan. 11, stems from a dispute over whether dispatchers and controllers managed their employer’s business operations, which would exempt them from overtime rules, or were directly engaged in Unitil’s primary business offering.

“Unitil Service has not demonstrated that the dispatchers’ and controllers’ primary duty consists of work ‘directly related to the management or general business operations’ of its customers,” U.S. Circuit Judge Gustavo Gelpí wrote for the panel.

The panel ruled that the lower court wrongly determined that dispatchers and controllers, who spent roughly 60 spent of their workdays monitoring electrical and gas pipeline systems, were engaged in regulatory compliance, quality control and health and safety tasks. While dispatchers and controllers monitored gas and electric distribution networks, they did not design, plan, test or evaluate those systems, the panel noted.

“Their duties lack the level of generality required by the regulation and the case law to conclude, without further inquiry, that they were engaged in ‘management or general business operations’ as opposed to routine, day-to-day affairs,” the panel ruled.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, most employees are owed time-and-a-half overtime premium pay when they work more than 40 hours in a single week. However, certain salaried workers whose primary duties are related to higher-level management of business functions, such as accounting or human resources operations, are exempt from those requirements.

A DOL representative said the department was reviewing the decision. Representatives for Unitil did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

A Unitil spokesman the company is confident in its case as it heads back to the lower court.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit

Stay informed with our free email updates
Concord Monitor Daily Headlines
Concord Monitor Breaking News
Concord Monitor Dining & Entertainment
Concord Monitor Report For America Education
Concord Monitor Report For America Health
Concord Monitor Real Estate
Concord Monitor Sports
Concord Monitor Suncook Valley
Concord Monitor Contests & Promotions
Concord Monitor Weekly Most Popular
Concord Monitor Granite Geek
Concord Monitor Monitor Marquee
Concord Monitor Hopkinton
Concord Monitor Politics
Concord Monitor MY CONCORD
Concord Monitor Franklin

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy

Customer Service

Social Media


View All Sections

Part of the Newspapers of New England Family