Plaintiffs worked for a steelmaking company. ?They claimed denial of pay for putting on (donning) and taking off (doffing) twelve kinds of protective gear.? ?The relevant union CBA designated this time as non-compensable.? ?The FLSA permits a CBA to designate the ?time spent changing clothes? as non-compensable.?? ?The district court granted summary judgment to the employer and the Tenth Circuit affirmed.? ?Both courts ruled that most of the items were ?clothes? and that the time spent putting on and taking off the remaining items, such as hardhats, glasses and earplugs, was de minimis.
The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the employer in an opinion by Justice Scalia.? ?The bulk of the Court?s opinion was devoted to an analysis of the words ?clothes? and ?changing.??? The Court held ?clothes? had its ordinary meaning: ?covering for the person.??? ?The Court rejected plaintiffs? definition of ?clothes? to exclude protective gear as too narrow and the employer?s definition?the entire outfit that one puts on to be ready for work– as too broad.?? The Court rejected the plaintiffs? contention that putting on or taking off protective gear over other clothes does not constitute ?changing? clothes.? ?The Court reasoned that ?changing? could refer to ?altering? and not just the? ?normal ?meaning? ?of? ?substituting? ?clothes. The Court reasoned that the object of the FLSA provision was to permit meaningful collective bargaining over ?changing clothes.? ?Limiting the phrase? ?to? ??substituting? ?clothes?? ?would? ?make compensability under the FLSA depend on such random factors as the personal style choices of the employee and the weather.
The Court held that safety glasses, earplugs, and respirators are not ?clothes.? ?The Court rejected the notion that a court could disregard the time an employee spends donning and doffing such items as de minimis.?? Instead, courts ?should ?determine? whether? taken ?as ?a whole the time at issue qualifies as time spent ?changing clothes? or not. ?If the vast majority of the time was spent ?changing clothes,? the entire time spent donning and doffing is not compensable regardless of any time spent putting on and taking off equipment.? ?If the ?vast majority? of the time is spent on donning and doffing equipment, then the entire period is compensable regardless of any time spent changing clothes. ?The Court did not opine what the result would be where there was not a ?vast majority? of time spent one way or the other.
Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp., 134 S. Ct. 870 (2014).