Getting Paid for Getting Dressed: DOL Guidance on Donning and Doffing


A recent Administrator’s Interpretation from the U.S. Department of Labor helps clarify whether employers must compensate employees for time spent putting on and taking off clothing and protective equipment necessary for their jobs, referred to as donning and doffing.

Section 3(o) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) says time spent “changing clothes or washing at the beginning or end of each workday” is excluded from compensable time under the FLSA if the time is excluded from compensable time pursuant to the express terms of or custom and practice under a collective bargaining agreement. Although this provision specifically governs unionized employees, the guidance is useful for all employers when evaluating whether employees must be paid for donning and doffing activities.

There have been several court cases analyzing what constitutes “clothing” under the Section 3(o) exemption. Donning and doffing of safety and sanitation equipment at the worksite is not covered by the exemption. So, for example, helmets, smocks, aprons, arm guards and sleeves, face shields, and impermeable gloves would probably not be “clothing” under the Section 3(o) exemption. This means employees must be compensated for time spent putting on or taking off this safety and sanitation equipment, even if they are subject to a collective bargaining agreement providing time spent changing clothes is exempt from compensable time.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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