Employees say Pierce Mfg. owes years of back pay

Posted at 10:14 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-03 08:57:52-05

APPLETON, WI -- A Wisconsin company with thousands of employees is facing a federal class action lawsuit over what could be potentially millions of dollars in alleged unpaid wages.

No specific dollar amount is mentioned in this 20-page suit.
But the employee behind it claims several workers, past and present, have been cheated out of 50 minutes of pay each week for years.
Eric Ehmann says he enjoys assembling firetrucks for the nation's largest firetruck manufacturer. 
"Yeah, it's a great job," smiles Ehmann.
But about a month ago, Pierce Manufacturing sent out a memo listing the reasons why they'd be reducing daily shift lengths by 10 minutes.
"One of the reasons that they cited in that memo was that they wanted us to spend more time with our families," says Ehmann, which admittedly made him question their motives. "It makes me wonder why they would be making so many workers work 9, 10, 11, 12 hour days, 5-6 days a week, when it seems like that would make more of a difference in allowing us to spend more time with our families," adds Ehmann, "in terms of changing those shifts."
So Ehmann did research, and says he discovered that Pierce had not been compensating hundreds of employees for what should be paid short breaks.
"Not just for a little while," adds Ehmann, "but apparently for decades," 
Ehmann contacted an attorney, who decided a class action suit would be best.
 "If you work, you're supposed to be paid for it," says attorney James Walcheske, "and so, there are procedures in place that, if for whatever reason, someone is not being paid for all time worked, or if they're working overtime, there's penalties for that."
But progress in federal court could take months.
Ehmann's attorney says Pierce has not yet been served the suit, but will be soon. They're seeking a jury trial.
We reached out to Oshkosh Corporation, who owns Pierce Manufacturing. Spokespeople tell us it's company policy not to comment on pending litigation.