Here’s a simple risk-reduction measure for employers that require employees to wear a uniform they need to put on before the start of a shift. 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 other police officers appealed a decision by a federal trial court that said the time they spent putting on their uniforms at work was not compensable time. They argued that it wasn’t practical to get dressed at home, given the nature of their uniforms.
Therefore, they said they should have been paid for the time they spent dressing, under the terms of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
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 or others to know they were police officers.
To accommodate their preference, the police department provided on-site lockers at the station.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said this was unlike other cases in which the employees could put on and take off their uniforms only at work—for example, when clothing might be contaminated and must therefore be left at the work site.
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 part of paid time. (Bamonte, et al., v. City of Mesa, No. 08-16206, 9th Cir., 2010)