We previously blogged about the dangers of not paying hourly employees for time spent waiting in line to have their temperatures taken. Employees are now facing similar issues related to time spent putting on, and taking off, mandatory PPE. Recently, two former employees of Cresco Labs filed a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuit against their former employers for failure to compensate for time spent donning safety equipment. According to the complaint, the employees were required to report to work early to put on mandatory PPE, such as masks, hairnets, arm sleeves, gloves, scrubs, and protective shoes. Although, the employees were permitted to clock in five minutes early, this was not enough to compensate them for their pre-shift safety activities, which took roughly 15 minutes. Because the employees were already scheduled to work 40 hours per week, they insisted that not only should they be compensated for their time spent putting on PPE, but they should also be paid the overtime rate of time and a half, as mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Whether or not these pre-shift activities are compensable will hinge not only on whether these are considered “principal activities” – i.e., activities that are integral to the activities that the employees were employed to perform – but also on whether these activities are deemed “de minimis.” When off the clock work only takes a few minutes, this time is generally disregarded for purposes of the FLSA. Because this question requires a highly fact specific analysis, employers should consult with an attorney when deciding whether to compensate employees for time spent donning PPE.