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Friday, March 28, 2014

FLSA Does Not Require Overtime Pay for Changing Clothes

Employees at a chicken processing plant sued their employer, alleging that the FLSA requires the employer to pay them for the time they spend changing in and out of their work gear before and after their lunch break. The Seventh Circuit disagreed, extending the current FLSA exception that does not require payment for employees' changing in and out of work clothes at the beginning and end of shifts to apply equally to before and after lunch breaks. Mitchell v. JCG Industries (7th Cir. Mar. 18, 2014)

The most interesting part of the case is a discussion of the "experiment" the court performed to see how long it actually would take for employees to change in and out of their equipment.  That "experiment is described as follows:
One of us decided to experiment with a novel approach.  It involved first identifying the clothing/equipment that the defendant’s plants use and buying it (it is inexpensive) from the supplier. Upon arrival of the clothing/equipment three members of the court’s staff donned/doffed it as they would do if they were workers at the plant. Their endeavors were videotaped. The videotape automatically recorded the time consumed in donning and doffing and also enabled verification that the “workers” were neither rushing nor dawdling. 
The videotape reveals that the average time it takes to remove the clothing/equipment is 15 seconds and the average time to put it on is 95 seconds. The total, 110 seconds, is less than two minutes, even though the “actors” had never worked in a poultry processing plant and were therefore inexperienced donners/doffers of the items in question.
The court concluded that it would be "absurd" to interpret the FLSA to require an employer to pay overtime to an employee for donning and doffing times during lunch breaks every day.  


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