Donning and Doffing, Employment Law

Donning and Doffing

What is donning and doffing?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was established in 1938 to protect workers’ rights. According to the FLSA, the term “donning and doffing” is used to refer to the practice of putting on (donning) and taking off (doffing) protective gear, clothing, and uniforms. There are certain circumstances where employers legally must pay their employees for time spent donning and doffing.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 establishes several important labor standards. These standards include minimum wage, overtime pay, record-keeping, and child labor standards for nearly all full-and-part-time workers in the U.S. Employers also must comply with any state laws regarding these standards.

Additionally, the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 established requirements for employee compensation. These requirements include “all time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty, or at a prescribed workplace.”

Under the Portal-to-Portal Act, a compensable workday consists of principle work activities that are:

  • Duties performed as part of your regular work in the ordinary course of business, and
  • Activities that are an integral part of or are indispensable to your regular duties

Compensable and Non-Compensable Time

Examples of activities during regular work hours that generally are compensable include coffee breaks, fire drills, meal periods if the employee is not off-duty, and periods where the employee is not free to leave their post.

Examples of non-compensable time during regular work hours include absence for illness or vacation unless paid on a salary basis, meal periods while on out-of-town business, training programs if attendance is voluntary and not directly related to employee’s present job, and travel from home to work site and vice versa.

Generally, FLSA law stipulates that time spent donning and doffing specialized protective gear is compensable time. However, courts may have different opinions about whether to mandate compensation for time spent donning and doffing protective gear that is not unique or specialized.

What is a Donning and Doffing Case Example?

A common claim in FLSA collective actions is for failure to compensate time that nonexempt employees spend donning and doffing.

Donning and doffing cases usually involve industries requiring employees to wear protective clothing in order to do their job. Some companies do not pay employees for time spent donning and doffing the protective gear. This includes both at the beginning and end of a shift as well as during break periods. However, the protective clothing is often not only essential, it is also a critical part of the production process that guarantees the quality of the product.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor:

“Generally, donning and doffing, which may include clothes changing, can be a ‘principal activity’ under the Portal to Portal Act, 29 U.S.C. § 254. IBP v. Alvarez, 546 U.S. 21, 30 (2005). The Supreme Court in Alvarez explicitly held that activities that are integral and indispensable are principal activities, and activities occurring after the first principal activity and before the last principal activity, are compensable. Alvarez, 546 U.S. at 37.

Thus the time spent in donning and doffing activities, as well as any walking and waiting time that occurs after the employee engages in his first principal activity and before he finishes his last principal activity, is part of the “continuous workday” and is compensable under the FLSA. Id. at 37.”

Industries where we typically see donning and doffing litigation include:

  • Poultry processing facilities
  • Beef packing facilities
  • Other agricultural industries

We have also seen litigation in industries where the protective clothing is essential safety gear for hazardous activities.

What can I do?

Our firm represents people whose employers have taken advantage of them through violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In these cases, employers intentionally misclassify employees as independent contractors or managers in order to reduce costs such as overtime compensation, employee benefits, payroll taxes, unemployment compensation and workers compensation.

If you feel you have a case where your employer is in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, you may have a claim. For a free legal consultation, contact us today.


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