02/19/2013 01:56:23 PM EST
U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Donning, Doffing Suit
WASHINGTON, D.C.-(Mealey's) The U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 19
agreed to hear the appeal of a class lawsuit over what constitutes "changing
clothes" under Section 203(o) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (Clifton Sandifer, et al. v. United
States Steel Corporation, No. 12-417, U.S. Sup.).
Donning And Doffing
Clifton Sandifer, an employee of United States Steel
Corp., filed a class complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern
District of Indiana against his employer on behalf of 800 former and current
hourly workers. He alleged that U.S. Steel violated the FLSA by failing
to compensate him and the class of employees for the time they spend putting on
and taking off their work clothes and walking from the locker room to their
work stations and back.
The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between U.S.
Steel and the workers' union does not require compensation for that time.
However, Sandifer argued that the FLSA does, in fact, require the compensation,
so that overrides the CBA. Judge Robert L. Miller Jr. ruled that the FLSA
does not require that the clothes changing time be compensated. However,
he refused to dismiss the portion of the case seeking compensation for the
travel time. U.S. Steel filed an interlocutory appeal. Sandifer
The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the
cross-appeal, finding that Sandifer did not seek leave to appeal. The
appellate panel then, in a May 8 opinion, ruled that Sandifer's case had no
merit and should be dismissed.
High Court Petition
Sandifer filed a petition for a writ of certiorari
in the U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 10. He argues that the FLSA requires
employees to be paid from the time they first engage in a principal
activity. He claims that donning and doffing safety gear required by the
employer is a principal activity "when it is an integral and indispensible part
of the activities for which the worker is employed." However, under
Section 203(o) of the FLSA, an employer doesn't need to compensate a worker for
time spent "changing clothes" if that time is expressly excluded from
compensable time under the CBA. Sandifer asked the high court to decide
several questions, including what constitutes "changing clothes."
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal but
limited it to the first question regarding the definition of "changing clothes"
under Section 203(o).
Eric Schnapper of the University of Washington School of
Law in Seattle represents
the employees. Lawrence C. DiNardo and Brian J. Murray of Jones Day in Chicago represent U.S.
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