Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
During a continuous workday, any walking time that occurs after the beginning of the employee's first principal activity and before the end of the employee's last principal activity is excluded from the scope of § 4(a) of the Portal-to-Portal Act, and as a result is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
After this Court ruled that the term "workweek" in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) included the time employees spent walking from time clocks near a factory entrance to their workstations, Congress passed the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947, which, inter alia, excepted from FLSA coverage walking on the employer's premises to and from the location of the employee's "principal activity or activities," § 4(a)(1), and activities that are "preliminary or postliminary" to "said principal activity or activities," § 4(a)(2). The Act did not otherwise change this Court's descriptions of "work" and "workweek" or define "workday." Regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Labor shortly thereafter concluded that the Act did not affect the computation of hours within a "workday," 29 CFR § 790.6(a), which includes "the period between the commencement and completion" of the "principal activity or activities," § 790.6(b). Eight years after the enactment of the Portal-to-Portal Act and these interpretative regulations, the Court explained that the "term 'principal activity or activities' . . . embraces all activities which are 'an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities,'" including the donning and doffing of specialized protective gear "before or after the regular work shift, on or off the production line." In No. 03-1238, respondent employees filed a class action seeking compensation for time spent donning and doffing required protective gear and walking from the locker rooms to the production floor of a meat processing facility owned by petitioner IBP, Inc. (IBP), and back. The District Court found the activities compensable, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. In No. 04-66, petitioner employees sought compensation for time spent donning and doffing required protective gear at a poultry processing plant operated by respondent Barber Foods, Inc. (Barber), as well as the attendant walking and waiting times. Barber prevailed on the walking and waiting claims. On appeal, the First Circuit found those times' preliminary and postliminary activities excluded from FLSA coverage by §§ 4(a)(1) and (2) of the Portal-to-Portal Act.
Is the time that employees spent walking between protective-clothing changing area and production area, after beginning and before end of workday compensable?
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that, since donning and doffing the protective gear was admittedly integral and indispensable to the employees' principal activity, such donning and doffing was itself a principal activity, and thus walking to and from changing and work areas, post-donning and pre-doffing, was part of the workday for which the employees were entitled to compensation. However, in the absence of any showing that the employees were required to report at a specific time and wait to don the gear, the time spent waiting to don gear was preliminary to the first principal activity of the workday and thus such time was not compensable except by agreement of the parties or the custom and practice in the particular industry.