US Supreme Court to Hear Protective Clothing Dispute

February 23, 2005 ( - The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case regarding whether workers should be compensated for the time they spend changing into protective clothing and walking to their work stations.

>According to the Associated Press, the court will consider the issue, which has caused splits at the federal appeals court level. The US 9 th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that workers should be paid changing into protective gear, while the US 1 st Circuit Court in Boston ruled that they shouldn’t be.

>In the 9 th  Circuit case, workers at IBP Inc. – now Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. – won $3.1 million in back pay for time they spent changing into protective clothing needed in the slaughterhouse. The workers had not been paid for the time spent donning their sanitary garments, boots, goggles, hard hats and gloves, according to the AP.

>The 1 st  Circuit, on the other hand, ruled that workers at Barber Foods in Maine should not be compensated for their time spent changing, in part because it only took a few moments, according to the AP.

>The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require that employees be paid for time spent “changing clothes,” according to the AP. However, the 9th  Circuit ruled that since the protective gear is “integral and indispensable” to the job, they should be compensated.

>According to the AP, the National Chicken Council and the American Meat Institute had pushed hard for the Supreme Court to hear the case, citing confusion due to the lower court’s differing rulings.