The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether meatpacking plants and other employers must compensate
workers for the waiting and walking time associated with donning and doffing
safety gear, the Associated Press reports.
The Supreme Court agreed to decide:
- Is time employees must spend walking to and from stations where required
safety equipment is distributed compensable under the Fair Labor Standards
Act, as amended by the Portal-to-Portal Act?
- Do employees have a right to compensation for time they must spend waiting
at required safety equipment distribution stations?
- Whether walking that occurs between compensable clothes-changing time and
the time employees arrive at or depart from their actual work stations constitutes
non-compensable "walking . . . to and from the actual place of performance
of the principal activity" under the Portal-to-Portal Act.
The high court consolidated two cases that were heard separately by the 1st Circuit
Court of Appeals and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The cases involved
employees who were unpaid for time spent donning and doffing gear but also challenged
whether time spent walking to and from areas where they retrieve and return
safety and sanitary gear should be compensated, LawMemo.com notes.
Both courts agreed that donning and doffing of specialized gear required by
the company and/or government regulation was compensable, according to LawMemo.com.
In the case decided by the 1st Circuit, former and current employees at Barber
Foods in Maine argued the company was required to compensate them for the time
they spent walking to retrieve and return gear, but the appeals court rejected
In addition, the Barber Foods employees argued that their time spent waiting
at the time clock to punch in and waiting in line for gear was compensable.
The court rejected these arguments as well. The court said there was no evidence
presented that the employer controlled any of the time spent waiting at the
time clock. The court also ruled that waiting time associated with donning and
doffing of clothes would qualify as a preliminary or postliminary activity under
the Portal-to-portal Act and therefore would be excluded from compensable work.
"We find that a short amount of time spent waiting in line for gear is
the type of activity that the Portal-to-portal Act excludes from compensation
as preliminary," the court said.
In the case heard by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, employees in Washington
argued that IBP, Inc., is required to pay them for pre-shift and post-shift
activities, including the time it takes them to walk from lockers rooms, where
they don and doff safety gear, to their work stations. The company considers
the period in which its employees are performing compensable work to begin with
the processing of the first piece of meat and to end with the processing of
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that: "'donning and doffing' and
'waiting and walking' constitute compensable work activities except for the
de minimis (that is, so minor as to be disregarded ) time associated with the donning and doffing of non-unique