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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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