Donning and Doffing: If You’re Suiting Up, Your Employer Needs to Pay Up!

men in full body white hazmat suitsThe holidays are fast approaching, and many employers will permit overtime and hire extra help to keep up. We highly recommend that you go back over your own company’s safety policies before the start of the crazy season. If you work in an industry that requires you to wear a certain uniform, protective gear, or sanitary clothing, you may be entitled to compensation for the time it takes to prepare for your shift. This is known as “donning,” or putting on, and “doffing,” or taking off. 

This information on donning and doffing will be especially important if you work in an industry that is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and others that have strict safety procedures. Keep this in mind when looking over your company’s policies, because your employer may be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 

The FLSA protects those who work in industries where their clothing, protective gear, and uniforms are an essential part of their work. This includes, but is not limited to, protective equipment such as hazmat suits, aprons, coveralls, hoods, vests, gloves, boots, masks, respirators, metal mesh gloves, and protective eyewear. California Labor Law requires that employees are compensated for donning and doffing, because this time is considered “work” time. 

You don’t have to work in sensitive environments to be covered by the donning and doffing laws.  Even people wearing work uniforms at restaurants, in retail, or in other places that require a costume or specific apparel qualifies them to be paid for time changing into and out of work clothes.

It’s pretty cut and dry; if you wear a mandated uniform for work, your employer should be paying you for the time you dress and undress.  One example is someone who has to wear a specific costume or uniform for their job. They often drive to work in their own clothes. When they get to work for their 10-6 shift, they put on the costume or uniform to be ready to work.  Your employer is operating under the law if you begin dressing into the required costume or uniform after 10. However, if your boss requires you to be fully dressed and ready to work at 10, and you have to arrive at 9:45 to gear up, they are not operating within the law.

At the Carter Law Firm, we work to help you file lawsuits to collect money for work time that went unpaid. There are a few things to consider when defining “work.” The first is if the uniform or clothing is mandatory for employees to wear to perform their job properly. If so, it then depends on if employees are allowed to change before arriving at work or if it is an on-site requirement. A large red flag area also arises if it takes you 10 minutes or longer to put on the uniform or if the uniform required is specifically to prevent contamination. 

If you are unsure whether this required compensation applies to you and your employer’s policies, Carter Law Firm can help.