Workers Not Entitled to Be Paid For Time Spent Donning Protective Gear, High Court Holds

For devotees of public television’s Downton Abbey, donning and doffing of clothing is something that the estate’s residences do–or more likely have the servants do for them.  Lord Grantham would never demand being paid for putting on his clothing. Nor would he need to.

The situation is somewhat different under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which has a provision excusing employers from having to pay their workers for “changing clothing” if it’s agreed on that provision with the workers’ union.

Today a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled that steelworkers are not entitled to compensation for time putting on and taking off various pieces of protective clothing.

Writing for the unanimous court, Justice Anton Scalia went straight to the dictionary, specifically the definition of “clothes” as that term is used in FLSA Section 203(o).

Scalia said that clothes denotes items that are both designed and used to cover the body and commonly regarded as articles of dress.

So, putting on protective gear is still clothing, and so is substituting or altering one’s dress.

I wrote about the oral argument in the case in November, and when the court agreed to review the case last year.

You can download the text of today’s ruling in Sandifer v. U.S. Steel from the SCOTUS blog.

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