Changing, walking to workstations not compensable acts

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that employees asking to be compensated for changing into safety clothing and walking to their work stations are undermining the efforts of the union that represents them.

In Clifton Sandifer, et. al. v. United States Steel Corporation, Nos. 10-1821, 10-1866, Clifton Sandifer and other workers claimed that United States Steel Corp. was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act by not compensating them for the time they spend changing into safety gear and walking to their work stations. A District judge held that clothes changing is excluded from the FLSA, as outlined in Section 203(o), but he certified for interlocutory appeal the question of whether “travel time” was compensable. The plaintiffs cross-appealed the District Court’s decision about whether changing clothes is compensable.

The plaintiffs argue that the term “clothes” does not apply to the present case, because the garments that they change into and out of before and after their shift are safety gear. On behalf of the 7th Circuit panel, Judge Richard Posner wrote that clothing is by nature protective.

“It would be absurd to exclude all work clothes that have a protective function from section 203(o), and thus limit the exclusion largely to actors’ costumes and waiters’ and doormen’s uniforms,” Posner wrote. He also stated that putting on a hard had and safety glasses and inserting earplugs was non-compensable, as all of those actions combined lasted only seconds.

U.S. Steel’s collective bargaining agreement does not require it to pay workers for walking to their work stations or changing clothes. And Posner wrote that if workers have a legal right to be paid for that time, “the company will be less willing to pay them a high wage for the time during which they are making steel; it will push hard to reduce the hourly wage so that its overall labor costs do not rise.”

Posner also wrote that not all requirements of employees constitute employment, using as an example that when a person calls in sick to work, unless he is on paid sick leave, he is not paid for the time it takes to place that call.

“The plaintiffs are adverse to their union, to the interests of other steelworkers, and to their own long-term interests.” Posner wrote.

The 7th Circuit affirmed the District Court’s finding that the act of changing clothes is non-compensable. It also ruled in favor of U.S. Steel on interlocutory appeal and found the case has no merit and should be dismissed by the District Court.



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  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

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  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

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