The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to compensate workers for the time they spend walking
to and from the production floor after donning and before doffing required safety
The court also said the time spent waiting to doff the required safety gear
is compensable under the FLSA. However, the court ruled that federal law excludes
from the FLSA's scope the time employees spend waiting to don the first piece
of gear that marks the beginning of the workday.
The court issued the rulings in two consolidated cases that raised questions
about whether the time employees spend walking between the changing area and
the production area is compensable under the FLSA, as amended by the by the
Portal-to-Portal Act. One of the cases also challenged whether the time employees
spend waiting to put on the protective gear is compensable under the FLSA.
In one case, employees at Barber Foods, Inc., sought compensation for walking
and waiting time associated with the donning and doffing of required protective
gear at a poultry processing plant in Maine.
"Because donning and doffing gear that is 'integral and indispensable'
to employees' work is a 'principal activity' under the statute, the continuous
workday rule mandates that the time the [employees] spend walking to and from
the production floor after donning and before doffing, as well as the time spent
waiting to doff, are not affected by the Portal-to-Portal Act, and are instead
covered by the FLSA."
The court rejected the employees' argument that they should be compensated
for the time they spend waiting to don the first piece of safety gear that begins
In the other case, workers at IBP, Inc., were seeking compensation for time
spent donning and doffing required protective gear and walking from the locker
rooms to the production floor of a meat processing facility in Washington.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the workers, affirming a 9th Circuit Court
of Appeals ruling.
"The time the employees spend walking between changing and production
areas is compensable under the FLSA," the Supreme Court ruled.