Supreme Court Ruling on Fair Labor Standards Act

Pay Workers for Putting on Protective Clothing and Walking to Work Stations - November, 2005

On November 8, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in two cases that workers must be paid for time spent changing clothes and waiting at stations to receive and return equipment. The court said the federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to compensate employees for all work time.

Time employees spend traveling to their work stations is generally excluded. However, here the court held the donning and doffing of gear to be "integral and indispensable" parts of the job and that the workday begins once workers start putting on their equipment. Therefore, the time spent walking to the workstation was also compensable.

Tyson Foods, Inc. was in a dispute with 815 beef slaughter and processing workers at a plant in Pasco, Washington. Workers were awarded $1.75 million in damages under federal law by a lower court on the federal wage claim. The second case involved a chicken-processing plant in Portland, Maine. Workers were required to arrive up to 30 minutes early to prepare for their shifts and wait at stations to receive gear.


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