As shown by a few recent high-profile court cases, employees should be paid for time spent at the workplace putting on and taking off required work clothes and equipment (so-called "donning and doffing"). Here's where you draw the line: You don't have to pay employees for the short time they spend waiting in line to pick up and drop off their required gear.
Recent case: A group of hourly production workers at a food processing plant filed suit under the Fair Labor Standards Act (), arguing they should be paid for time spent putting on and taking off required safety and sanitary gear. The workers also sought back pay for time they occasionally spent waiting in line to pick up and drop off their clothing and equipment at the company's cage windows and coatracks.
The company countered by saying the FLSA excludes pay for "preliminary or postliminary activity, " the few minutes at the beginning and end of a workday that's spent getting ready prior to punching in. A federal appeals court said the workers had a case as far as the actual donning and doffing of clothes, but said the company didn't have to pay for time spent waiting beforehand. (Tum v. Barber Foods Inc., Nos. 02-1679, 02-1739, 1st Cir., 2003)