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Is Time Spent Putting On Safety Gear Part Of The Workday?

The U.S. Supreme Court is tackling whether workers who must wear specific safety or protective gear in the course of their employment must be paid for the time spent gearing up before shift and gearing down after. In essences, the Supreme Court will be determining what “changing clothes” means for the purposes of hourly pay for unionized workers.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that all employees must be compensated for all hours worked. But, the FLSA also allows for employers not to pay for time spent before and after work changing clothes if a collective bargaining exists that does not require payment for this time.

Approximately 800 steel workers brought suit against the United States Steel Corporation for failing to include the time spent changing into and out of safety gear and traveling to and from the workplace in order to change clothes as time for which they should be compensated.

In the case presented to the Supreme Court, the steel workers log 40 hours actually on-the-job, at their work stations within the steel mill. If the Court was to hold that the time putting on safety gear and traveling to and from the locker room to change clothes should be included as compensable time, it would all be payable at overtime rates of time-and-one-half.

Both the trial and appellate court held that the steel workers did not have a claim and dismissed their case. But, the Supreme Court recently agreed to decide what changing clothes means in terms of the FLSA, reviving the steel workers chances at receiving back overtime pay and potentially additional damages.

Source: FindLaw, “Will Companies Have to Pay Employees to Take Off Their Clothes?,” February 22, 2013

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