“Donning and doffing” refers to the amount of time employees take putting on (donning) and taking off (doffing) employer-mandated clothing and accessories before or after work. In some cases, employers must pay their employees for the time the employees spend putting on and taking off work clothes, gear, and equipment related to their primary job.
Both federal law and New York state law requires employers to compensate for their hourly wage-earning employees for “all work” that they perform. Federal and state laws have somewhat different standards of when an employer must pay his or her employee for the “donning and doffing” of a uniform. The requirement of compensation depends on the type of business, the company’s policies, and whether or not the employee’s union has a contract that addresses donning and doffing.
Is Your Employer Failing to Pay You for Putting on Your Work Gear?
Are you required to wear protective or other job-related gear or equipment that is integral to the successful completion of your job? If your employer does not currently pay you to put on and take off your equipment, you might have a valid legal claim for compensation against them. As you will see, determining whether or not an employer is legally required to pay for donning and doffing is a complicated area legal area that involved state and federal law.
New York City wage and hour attorneys Lipsky Lowe LLP have an in-depth understanding of donning and doffing laws. Our skilled attorneys will listen to the facts in your case and advise you as to whether you have a claim to compensation for the time you spend suiting up and unsuiting before and after work. We understand how important it is that our clients receive payment for all of the time they spend working for their employers. Contact our New York City employment law firm today to set up your free initial consultation.
Donning and Doffing and The Federal Labor Standards Act
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay employees for the time they spend engaged in activities before or after their shifts in some cases. The Portal-to-Portal Act is an amendment to the FLSA. The amendment requires employers to compensate employees for “all-time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer’s premises, on duty, or at a prescribed workplace.”
Employers must compensate their employees for the time they spend donning and doffing before or after work when the activities are “integral and indispensable” to their regular work. In applying the FLSA, courts determine whether or not employers must compensate employees for donning and doffing based on the nature of the items employees put on and take off.
Integral parts of a job include activities that are necessary to perform job duties. For example, firefighters are required to wear extensive fire-proof uniforms and equipment that is necessary for fighting fires. If donning and doffing a particular uniform is integral to your employee’s work activities, you are likely required by law to compensate them for that time.
Which Donning and Doffing Activities Are Integral and Indispensable?
The courts have devised different tests to determine whether employers must compensate their employees for donning and doffing — the unique gear test and the exertion test. The unique gear test requires that an employee don and doff non-unique gear such as metal mesh clothing or Kevlar gloves to be compensated. The exertion test considers the amount of mental or physical exertion the employee uses to don or doff the equipment. To qualify for compensation, an employee’s pre- and post-shift preparation must be integral and indispensable to performing principal activities.
Generally, an activity is integral and indispensable to the employee’s principal work activities when:
- The donning or doffing activity is “an intrinsic element” of the employee’s primary employment activities, and
- The employee cannot dispense the donning or doffing if he is to perform his principal activities.
In other words, the employee should receive compensation for the donning and doffing of their uniforms when:
- The employee undertakes the donning and doffing activities for the employer’s benefit
- The employee has no choice of his or her own as to whether to don or doff the uniform, and
- The uniforms are vital to the “primary goals” of the employee during his or her shift.
Unionized Employees May Not Be Entitled to Donning and Doffing Compensation
The FLSA makes an exception to the overarching donning and doffing rule for union employees under a collective bargaining agreement. An employer does not need to compensate employees for donning and doffing clothes if a relevant collective bargaining agreement does not require it. If your union already has a written contract with your employer that explicitly addresses payment for donning and doffing, you cannot sue for additional compensation.
Contact Our NYC Donning and Doffing Lawyers
As you can see, the federal and state laws regarding donning and doffing payment are complex. No clear bright-line standard exists as to which donning and doffing practices are considered work activities. Whether or not your employer must pay you for putting on and taking off your work uniform depends on an analysis of several different factors. If the donning and doffing of your uniform is integral and indispensable to your employment, your employer may be legally required to pay you for your time spent donning and doffing.
You deserve payment for all of the time that you spend working on behalf of your employer. The skilled New York City employment law attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP will advise you as to your best legal options. Your employer may have an obligation under the law to compensate you for the time you spend each day putting on your uniform and taking it off. If this is the case, our employment law attorneys can help you fight for your right to compensation. Contact our New York City employment law firm today to set up your free initial consultation.