Donning and doffing claims are alive and well—and the subject of much litigation.
Part of the reason for renewed attention is that the U.S. Supreme Court recently took up the issue of pay for time spent changing clothes. In Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp., the Court analyzed whether employees' time spent donning and doffing protective apparel (such as flame-retardant pants and jackets, work gloves, steel-enforced work boots, and hard hats) was compensable under that particular collective bargaining agreement, which said employees would not be paid for time spent "changing clothes." The Court found no duty to pay in that situation.
Outside the collective bargaining context, though, time spent donning and doffing clothes or protective gear is generally compensable under the FLSA. The key is whether the act is an "integral and indispensable" part of the job. What does that mean?
Time spent donning and doffing clothes or protective gear is considered "integral and indispensable" when it primarily benefits the employer and is necessary to the principal work performed. In this context, "necessary" means required by law, company policy, or the nature of the work. For instance, if USDA regulations require employees to wear smocks, gloves, and hairnets, the FLSA likely requires the employer to compensate the employees for the time they spend putting on and taking off those items.
How these rules apply varies greatly among particular industries and positions. If you have questions about whether time spent donning and doffing clothes or protective gear should count as work time, our Labor and Employment team can help you analyze and proactively address these issues.