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Donning and Doffing Wage Claims Include Time Spent on Safety

Former employees of a washer and dryer plant claim they were required to arrive 15 minutes before their shifts to put on protective equipment. They claim the employer failed to pay them for the time it took them to don armguards, gloves and other work safety gear.

The employer, who moved operations in March 2011 to Mexico, faces a class-action lawsuit on the alleged wage and hour violations that occurred between December 2008 and December 2011. Up to 1,500 former employees are expected to join the lawsuit, seeking back pay for the violations.

A U.S. district judge recently ordered the employer to produce the names and addresses of hourly production workers at the plant so they can be notified to join the case. About 1,000 former employees have already expressed interest. "More than 1,000+ workers to join Electrolux lawsuit," globegazette.com (Mar. 12, 2012).

Commentary

Employers should compensate employees for time spent doing work-related activities such as putting on and taking off their work clothing and safety equipment. Failure to compensate employees for even a few minutes can significantly add up over time when calculated for every shift and every employee.

The best practice is to require employees to clock in the moment they arrive at work and clock out after they have performed all work-related activities, including equipment removal. Requiring employees to clock in only after performing a duty that benefits the employer in some way invites scrutiny and possible lawsuits.

Other activities that may create wage and hour risk for employers if not compensated for include but are not limited to: time spent by an employee required to wait on a person or an activity to begin; time spent by an employee being on-call; lecture time, meetings and training time; rework time or time to correct mistakes, and travel time.

Wage and hour class actions are attractive to trial attorneys because proof is readily available. Attorneys seeking to prove wage and hour violations simply rely on records kept and definitive numbers, rather than on the subjective type of evidence required in other types of cases, such as those involving discrimination.

The FLSA Hours Worked Advisor provides guidance for specific situations that may affect your workplace.
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