Prepping for work: How much time do you have to pay for? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Prepping for work: How much time do you have to pay for?

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Perhaps no other aspect of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is more confusing than the so-called “donning and doffing” provisions. Exactly what preliminary preparation before work and cleanup after work should be included in paid time?

Fortunately, a recent case helps clarify that employers don’t need to pay workers for many preliminary and post-work activities.

Recent case:
David Alford and other employees at a Perdue Farms poultry processing plant in Perry found a lawyer to file a class-action lawsuit contending they should have been paid for the time it took them to get from the parking lot to the processing line.

First, they demanded pay for the time it took to get into specialized chicken processing gear. That strategy failed because it turned out Perdue Farms already was paying them from the time they clocked in, which included getting into the gear and walking to the line.

After realizing that claim was no good, the lawyers argued that their clients should be paid for the time required to put on hairnets, boots and other general protective gear. They did this before clocking in.

The court tossed out that claim, too. FLSA and U.S. Department of Labor regulations say nothing about requiring employers to pay for putting on ordinary clothing like work boots and hairnets. (Alford v. Perdue Farms, No. 5:07-CV-87, MD GA, 2008)

Final notes: The court provided several examples of unpaid preparation and cleanup time. Generally, employers don’t have to pay employees for the time they spend on activities that most people have to perform in daily life. Employees who put on a generic uniform either at home or at work do not have to be paid for that time anymore than a clerk would be paid to put on a suit and tie.

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