Should Your Employer Pay You For Time Spent Changing Your Clothes?

A hotly contested topic around the country is whether workers should be paid for time spent changing their clothes. A failure to pay an employee for all of the time-spent working may be a violation of the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, employers must pay all non-exempt workers for all time-spent working, including overtime for time put-in in excess of 40 hours in any one work week. Your overtime rate is one and one-half times your regular rate of pay.

If you have any questions about the FLSA or believe you may not have been paid all the compensation you are entitled to it’s important to consult with an experienced Atlanta wage and hour attorney right away.

Despite fairly straightforward sounding rules, many employers either mistakenly or intentionally fail to pay their workers compensation – including overtime pay – for all hours worked. An example of where a lot of confusion exists is whether workers should be compensated by their employers for time spent changing clothes (in legal terms, “donning and doffing). Although generally time spent changing clothes may not be counted as compensable time worked, it depends on the type of work and type of clothing involved. Where workers are required to change into safety equipment, many courts around the county are requiring that employers pay workers for the time spent “donning and doffing.”

The Ninth Circuit (which includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, Arkansas and Hawaii) determined that changing in safety equipment is distinct from putting on ordinary work clothes, so they should be paid for this time.

However, the Seventh Circuit (which includes Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) found that a steel company was not required to pay some 800 former and current steel workers for the time spent changing in and out of safety equipment such as flame-retardant pants and jacket, work gloves, safety glasses, a hard hart and putting in ear plugs. The court reasoned that the amount of time was “de minimus,” so compensation wasn’t required.

The Supreme Court has decided to step in to answer this question. This past February, the Supreme Court agreed to answer the very narrow question: “What constitutes ‘changing clothes’ within the meaning of Section 203(o) of the FLSA? [Section 203(o) is a section of the law stating, “hours worked” does not include time spent “changing clothes”]

How the Supreme Court answers this question may have a large impact on the take home pay of people who work in industries requiring that workers wear safety equipment to perform their jobs.

For more information about “donning and doffing” or if you believe that your employer has not paid you all the compensation you deserve, it’s critical to contact a dedicated Atlanta overtime pay attorney right away.