The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a new interpretation letter (2010-2) on compensable time for “donning and doffing” certain work clothes. The new guidance essentially reverses several opinion letters issued by the Bush Administration.
The letter says time spent putting on and taking off “protective clothing” (for example, helmets, smocks, aprons, gloves, and so forth.) is compensable activity.
According to the DOL interpretation letter, the U.S. Supreme Court "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 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."
The DOL ruling goes on to says that time spent changing into “ordinary clothes” (a uniform) may not be compensable in itself, but the activity could start the compensable workday.
That could mean that time spent following such clothes changing—including time spent walking or even commuting to the actual work station—would be compensable, unless the employer could show that such changing time is not integral to the job.
As the DOL notice says, "It is the Administrator’s interpretation that clothes changing covered by §203(o) may be a principal activity. Where that is the case, subsequent activities, including walking and waiting, are compensable."
Read the full DOL interpretation letter (2010-2) at www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/AdminIntrprtnFLSA.htm.