Here’s a simple risk-reduction measure for employers that require employees to wear uniforms on the job. You can reduce your chances of being on the losing end of a wage-and-hour lawsuit by giving employees the option to suit up at home.
Recent case: Fred Bamonte and several Mesa, Ariz., police officers sued the city, arguing they should be paid for time spent putting on their uniforms at work. The officers said it wasn’t practical to get dressed at home, given the nature of their uniforms.
Their uniforms included trousers, a shirt, a nametag, a clip-on or Velcro tie, special shoes, a badge, a duty belt, a service weapon, handcuffs, chemical spray, a baton and a portable radio. They had the option of either wearing body armor or carrying it along.
The officers said they preferred to suit up at work, partly because they didn’t like having weapons around their families and might not want neighbors to know they were police officers. To accommodate their preference, the police department provided on-site lockers.
The appeals court sided with the city, saying this wasn’t like other “donning and doffing” cases in which clothing might be contaminated and must, therefore, be left at work.
Since the police department didn’t require dressing and undressing at work and since no special protective gear was involved, the time spent dressing—whether at home or work—wasn’t paid time. (Bamonte, et al., v. City of Mesa, No. 08-16206, 9th Cir., 2010)