safety article
US Supreme Court to Hear PPE Donning and Doffing Case

Should US Steel workers be paid for the time it takes them to put on and take off their personal protective equipment (PPE) and get to and from their work areas, or should the clock start running only when they are wearing that PPE and have arrived at their workstations?

That’s the issue the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear later this year. Clifton Sandifer and other US Steel employees working at Michigan and Illinois steel mills are plaintiffs in the case.

The US Supreme Court notes that US Steel workers spend up to several hours per week donning and doffing PPE and traveling, sometimes on buses, to and from locker rooms to their workstations. But US Steel only pays them for the time they are at their workstations.

“This action concerns whether, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the workers are entitled to be paid as well for the time they spend donning and doffing their safety equipment and they time they spend traveling between the locker rooms and their workstations. Because the workers spend 40 hours a week at their workstations, the donning and doffing time and the travel time, if compensable, would be overtime,” notes the US Supreme Court.

The US Steel workers wear three distinct types of safety gear, including fire-retardant jackets and pants and steel-toed boots; protective goggles, earplugs and hardats; and a flame-retardant or aluminized hood designed to protect the head and neck from flames and molten metal, a flame-retardant wristlet covering the forearm from the elbow to the hand and flame-retardant spats designed to prevent molten metal from falling into the boots.

“The controlling legal question is whether the donning and doffing of that safety equipment constitutes ‘changing clothes’, says the court.

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