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Personal protective equipment

Supreme Court: Workers not entitled to payment for time spent donning PPE

January 28, 2014

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Washington – Employers do not have to pay workers for time spent putting on and taking off personal protective equipment, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Jan. 27.

Clifton Sandifer and current and former employees at an Indiana steelmaking facility filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act against U.S. Steel, seeking back pay for time spent donning PPE, which the employer requires them to wear.

In Sandifer et al. versus U.S. Steel Corp., the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed a lower court ruling and said time spent putting on PPE amounted to “changing clothes,” for which employees are not entitled to payment under FLSA. In addition, the court said, such time spent donning PPE was minimal.

“Even if certain items – the hardhat, glasses, and earplugs – were not ‘clothes,’ the time spent donning and doffing them was ‘de minimis,’ and hence noncompensable,” stated the opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.