Donning, doffing and getting paid: protective gear and the FLSA
To a truly remarkable degree, the English language has become the world’s language.
The reasons for this are of course complex. But one factor in its favor has long been the fact that English is a very inclusive language. By taking in words and phrases from many sources, the array of choices is constantly enriched.
In this post, we will pick up on a peculiar English phrase that sums up an important employment-law dispute: donning and doffing.
Only a few weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on what the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) says about payment of workers while they are changing their clothes – i.e., while they are “donning and doffing.” The case is called Sandifer v. United States Steel Corporation.
The section of the FLSA at issue was Section 203(0). That section states that when a labor agreement between a union and an employer has specified that clothes-changing time will not be compensated, the time spent doing so is not included in minimum-wage and overtime protections under the law.
Numerous workers at U.S. Steel argued that donning and doffing protective equipment such as steel-toed boots, flame-retardant jackets and safety goggles does not fit within the definition of “changing clothes” for purposes of the FLSA.
The Supreme Court disagreed, however, finding that “clothes” included articles of dress that were used to protect against workplace hazards.
In short, the workers lost this one. But, as we frequently discuss in this blog, there are many other contexts in which wage-and-hour claims are able to prevail.
Source: SCOTUSblog, “Opinion analysis: ‘Clothes’ are items commonly regarded as articles of dress,” Samuel Bagenstos, Jan. 28, 2014