Even after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the matter, whether companies have to pay employees for the time spent donning and doffing safety gear was still confusing. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is trying to clear that up.
In an interpretation letter, the DOL says that the exemption for paying employees for the time it takes to change clothes “does not extend to protective equipment worn by employees that is required by law, by the employer or due to the nature of the job.”
In other words: If workers are putting on or taking off safety gear, pay them for the time it takes to do that.
This interpretation letter departs from previous ones, which concluded that “clothes” included the protective gear worn by employees.
Under a section of the Fair Labor Standards Act, time spent changing “clothes or washing at the beginning of end of each workday” is excluded from compensable time.