Q. How has the recent DOL interpretation letter addressed an employer’s obligation to pay employees for time spent changing clothes?
A. The Fair Labor Standards Act () allows employers not to pay employees for “time spent in changing clothes” at the beginning or end of the workday if the time has been excluded “by the express terms of or by custom or practice under a bona fide collective-bargaining agreement applicable to the particular employee.”
That means that, through negotiation, agreement or past practices, a unionized employer may not have to pay employees for their time spent changing clothes.
On June 16, 2010, the DOL issued an interpretation letter clarifying the definition of “clothes” in §203(o) of the FLSA. The DOL narrowed the meaning of “clothes” by excluding protective equipment.
Consequently, employers must compensate employees for time spent putting on and taking off protective equipment that is required by law, the employer or the nature of the job.
Protective equipment generally includes any covering that an employee wears for protection or safety over regular clothes.
This interpretation is a change from the DOL’s position in previous opinion letters.