Workers who must change their clothes as part of their jobs could soon be getting paid for the time spent donning and doffing special garments before and after their Florida work shifts. A Supreme Court case brought by steel-plant worker employed by United States Steel involves a series of wage and labor claims related to the dress-out policy at a Midwestern plant. The ruling in this case could have implications for scores of employers throughout the nation, who may soon be responsible for paying their workers to change clothes.
A ruling is still pending on the matter from the nation’s highest court, as justices attempt to create a standard for compensating workers who have to dress out for their jobs.
The case, brought by 800 current and former workers at a plant in the Midwest, alleges that the employer is unfairly failing to pay them for donning a significant amount of gear, including flame-retardant pants, coats, headgear and gloves. The company argues that those items are considered personal protective equipment – much like a pair of safety glasses – and workers should not be paid for donning and doffing time.
In essence, the court is attempting to establish the distinction between clothing and personal protective equipment. The decision in the matter could have wide-reaching effects, particularly on the grocery industry, according to information in the suit. Workers in that industry must also don and doff equipment. The change could come at a big cost, with grocery companies being forced to pay about $1.6 million for every 1,000 employees eligible for back pay.
Workers deserve to get paid for every action they take on the job. Employees who are required to use protective clothing should be paid for the additional time required to don and doff that equipment. Wage and hour laws should be designed to protect workers from unscrupulous employers who are looking to pinch pennies at all costs.
Source: www.reuters.com, “Supreme Court weighs fight over changing clothes at work” Amanda Becker, Nov. 04, 2013