For the most part, people can agree on what constitutes work. Activities as specified in a job description that are done during regular or overtime hours usually count as work. What is less clear, however, are activities undertaken so an employee can fulfill his or her work duties. This includes activities such as logging on to or off of computer systems, putting on or taking off important safety gear, waiting for a security check before leaving a work site, and other such activities.
So far, lawsuits have resulted in varying results, with some donning and doffing lawsuits being dismissed and others resulting in awards.
This is one of the reasons why three trade organizations have indicated their support of the US Supreme Court hearing a request by ThyssenKrupp Waupaca Inc. to review claims concerning employees being paid for time spent showering and putting on or taking off work clothes.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employees be paid for activities “required by the nature of the employees’ work.” But that does not make clear when putting on certain clothes or safety gear is compensable time. The three organizations argue that simply providing shower facilities on a site does not mean showering is required by the job for health reasons.
The lawsuit was filed in 2008 by employees who argued that ThyssenKrupp violated the Fair Labor Standards act by not paying overtime for employees who showered and changed at work, according to court documents. Certain employees, according to the lawsuit, were required to wear personal protective equipment and faced disciplinary action if they failed to.
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In 2013, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision, finding that there was a “factual dispute in this case as to whether these activities significantly reduced workers’ health risks at Waupaca.” The court also found that the lack of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandate regarding providing shower facilities onsite was not enough to dismiss the lawsuit.
ThyssenKrupp has now asked the US Supreme Court to issue a ruling on what activities are considered compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The case is Thyssenkrupp Waupaca Inc. v. DeKeyser et al., case number 14-30 in the U.S. Supreme Court.