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SCOTUS to hear Indiana steelworkers’ case Monday

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This question arising in an Indiana labor case will be before the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday: What does “changing clothes” mean?

That language in Section 203(o) of the Fair Labor Standards Act has been interpreted differently in federal circuits around the nation. The case before the justices, Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp., 12-417, arrives with a 7th Circuit holding that the acts of changing clothes and walking to work stations are not compensable under Section 203(o).

Clifton Sandifer and other workers claimed that U.S. Steel 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. The 7th Circuit rejected that argument, affirming the order of Judge Robert Miller of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division.

Alison Fox, who practices primarily in labor law at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP in South Bend, is following the case but is not involved. She said that while the question is a narrow one, it could resolve different interpretations among circuits, some of which consider safety gear to be clothing, for instance, while others don’t.

Likewise, some circuits, including the 7th, hold that the statute addresses the question, while several other circuits have ruled the question is one that may be negotiated between employers and unions.

Fox said the varying circuit rulings have resulted in some companies that do business nationwide operating under different practices from region to region. The federal Department of Labor also has changed its interpretation over the years, she noted.

“The whole point of the provision we’re talking about is to create some certainty,” Fox said.

If the Supreme Court affirms the 7th Circuit, Fox said it could invalidate provisions of collective bargaining agreements that compensate workers for the time they spend changing or washing clothes. If the court reverses, a result could be that unionized workers can negotiate for pay during such times.

“A wide range of industries would be affected” by any ruling, she said. “Because it involves common types of safety gear in many industries, I think it will have a wide-ranging impact.”


 

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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