Wednesday, February 20, 2013

SCOTUS Grants Cert. in FLSA "Changing Clothes" Case

Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted certiorari (i.e. decided it will hear the case) in Sandifer v. U.S. Steel (SCOTUSblog case page). Once upon a time, I was an intern at U.S. Steel - I worked in computer support, riding around a steel mill on a golf cart with a hard hat and flame retardant jacket fixing computers . . . but I digress. Per the Petition for Writ of Certiorari, the question presented is:
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the period of time during which a covered employee must be paid begins when the worker engages in a principal activity. Donning and doffing safety gear (including protective clothing) required by the employer is a principal activity when it is an integral and indispensable part of the activities for which the worker is employed. Such requirements are common in manufacturing firms. However, under section 203(o) of the Act an employer need not compensate a worker for time spent in “changing clothes” (even if it is a principal activity) if that time is expressly excluded from compensable time under a bona fide collective bargaining agreement applicable to that worker. The interrelated questions presented are:
(1) What constitutes “changing clothes” within the meaning of section 203(o)?
(2) If a worker’s actions are a principal activity but fall within the scope of the section 203(o) exemption, do those actions nonetheless commence the period of time during which (aside from the clothes-changing time)the worker must be compensated?
(3) If a worker engages in a principal activity which is not exempted by section 203(o), but which involves only a de minimis amount of time, does the activity nonetheless commence the period of time during which the worker must be compensated?
Don't get too attached to questions 2 and 3 though . . . per the Supreme Court's Order: "The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted limited to Question 1 presented by the petition." No date set yet, but it should be in the October 2013 term.

Sidenote: Walker Lawrence, one of the employment lawyers on my Twitter emplaw list, is on the Petition for Writ of Certiorari. Congratulations! Follow him for updates on FLSA issues and other employment law goodness.