Winter 2006-04 Donning and doffing of work gear as compensable time

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Number 62
Winter 2006

Donning and doffing of work gear as compensable time

In BP, Inc. v. Álvarez, 2005 U.S. Lexis 8373, the United States Supreme Court in I reaffirmed that "donning" (putting on) and "doffing" (getting off) specialized protective gear is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

"Principal activity"

In a prior decision- Steiner v. Mitchell, 350 U.S. 247 (1956)-the Court had concluded that activities such as the donning and doffing of specialized protective gear before and after the regular work shift are compensable under the provisions of the FLSA when they are an integral and indispensable part of the "principal activity." The concept was defined as those that constitute an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities which the employee is employed to perform. Based on the foregoing, the Court concluded that "any activity that is 'integral and indispensable' to a 'principal activity' is itself a 'principal activity'" under the Portal-to-Portal Act provisions of the FLSA.

Postdonning and predoffing

As to the question of whether postdonning and predoffing walking time is compensable under the FLSA, the Supreme Court concluded that during a "continuous workday" any walking time that occurs after the beginning of the employee's first principal activity and before the end of the employee's last principal activity is covered by FLSA. The Court defined "continuous workday" as "the period between the commencement and completion on the same workday of an employee's principal activity or activities." In light of the above, the Court held that the time an employee spends walking to and from the production floor after donning and before doffing, as well as the time spent waiting to doff, are covered by the FLSA because such time forms part of the "continuous workday." Therefore employees must be compensated therefor.

Finally, the Supreme Court concluded that the time that employees spend waiting to put on the protective gear is not compensable under the FLSA because it is two steps removed from the productive activity. Nevertheless, the Court stated that if the employer requires its workers to report to the changing area at a specific time and no protective gear is available until after some time has elapsed, federal regulation 29 C.F.R. 790.7(h)-which provides that "waiting for work" is an integral part of the employee's principal activity-will apply, and said time will be compensable.

In sum:

In sum, in Álvarez the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that:

under the principal activity rule the donning and doffing of specialized protective gear performed before or after the regular work shift are compensable under the FLSA, because those activities are considered to be an integral and indispensable part of the employee's principal activities;

the time spend by employees walking to the changing area where the special safety gear is donned before starting work is excluded from FLSA coverage, and it is not compensable;

the time employees spend waiting to put on the protective gear is not compensable under the FLSA because it is two steps removed from the productive activity on the assembly line;

the time employees spend walking between the changing area and the production line after donning and before doffing is compensable under the FLSA;

the time spend waiting to doff is compensable under the FLSA because it is just one step away from the productive activity on the assembly line.


© 2006 Goldman Antonetti & Cordova, LLC