The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday in Sandifer v. US Steel Corp. [SCOTUS Blog backgrounder] that employees are not entitled to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) [text, PDF] for time spent changing in and out of protective gear. The FLSA governs minimum wages and maximum hours for certain employees and specifically excludes the time it takes to change clothes from hours worked, unless otherwise specified in a collective bargaining agreement. A group of current and former employees at the US Steel plant in Gary, Indiana sought backpay for time spent donning and doffing protective gear, including commonly used flame-retardant gear, despite a provision in the companies collective-bargaining agreement which states that this time is noncompensable. The employee's argued [brief, PDF] that the word "clothes" as used in the FLSA does not include the protective gear, which is designed to guard against workplace hazards. Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Antonin Scalia rejected that argument and held that the time spent donning and doffing protective gear is not subject to compensation under the FLSA because it was not sufficiently different from "changing clothes" [Reuters report].
The court heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] on the case in November. The court granted the petition for certiorari [text, PDF] after the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion] in favor of US Steel Corp.