Union contract doesn’t cover ‘donning and doffing’? You may not have to pay — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Union contract doesn’t cover ‘donning and doffing’? You may not have to pay

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For many employers, it’s hard to imagine any advantage in having a union workplace, so this news may come as a bit of a surprise.

At least under some limited circumstances, having a unionized workforce may protect some employers from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuits related to putting on and taking off protective gear before and after a shift.

Recent case: A group of employees filed a class-action lawsuit against their employer, a chicken processing company, because it didn’t pay for the time they spent each day putting on and taking off protective gear. The employees were represented by a union—but that didn’t stop them from suing.

Essentially, the employees had to put on aprons and gloves and sanitize themselves before entering the conveyor belt area where they processed chickens.

The company’s argument in court: The FLSA says employers with unionized workforces don’t have to pay for so-called “donning and doffing” of safety equipment and clothing if there’s been a long-standing practice not to pay for that time, and nothing in the union contract requires paying for it.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. In this case, the plant had never paid for the time. The union had tried to negotiate payment into the contract, but was unsuccessful. The court said the matter was best left to negotiation during the next round of collective bargaining. (Sepulveda, et al., v. Allen Family Foods, No. 08-2256, 4th Cir., 2009)

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