Daily Archives: February 6, 2014

Sandifer v. US Steel Corp: SCOTUS rules that parties agreement in CBA that time spent "changing clothes" at start/end of day is not compensible (29 USC Section 203) can extend to non-clothes items

Excerpt from syllabus:

29 U. S. C. §203(o) allows parties to collectively bargain over whether “time spent in changing clothes . . . at the be- ginning or end of each workday” must be compensated.

The donning and doffing in this case qualifies as “changing clothes” under §203(o). Of the 12 items at issue, only 3—safety glasses, earplugs, and a respirator—do not fit within the elaborated interpretation of “clothes.” Apparently concerned that federal judges would have to separate the minutes spent clothes-changing and washing from the minutes de- voted to other activities during the relevant period, some Courts of Appeals have invoked the doctrine de minimis non curat lex (the law does not take account of trifles). But that doctrine does not fit comfortably within this statute, which is all about trifles. A more appropriate way to proceed is for courts to ask whether the period at issue can, on the whole, be fairly characterized as “time spent in changing clothes or washing.” If an employee devotes the vast majority of that time to putting on and off equipment or other non-clothes items, the entire period would not qualify as “time spent in changing clothes” under §203(o), even if some clothes items were also donned and doffed. But if the vast majority of the time is spent in donning and doffing “clothes” as defined here, the entire period qualifies, and the time spent putting on and off other items need not be subtracted.