Continuing the recently established practice of issuing broadly applicable “Administrator Interpretations” in lieu of wage and hour opinion letters, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Deputy Administrator Nancy Leppink has released the second Administrator Interpretation of 2010. The interpretation, issued June 16, clarifies the definition of “clothes” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), addressing some inconsistency among prior opinion letters and case law on the topic of donning and doffing protective equipment.
Specifically, the FLSA provides that time spent “changing clothes” at the beginning of the workday isn’t considered compensable time; however, there had been a difference of opinion as to whether “clothes” also included mandatory protective equipment required in some industries — for example, meatpacking and processing. In Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2010-2, Deputy Administrator Leppink examined the FLSA’s statutory language and legislative history to determine that “clothes” refers to apparel, not to mandatory protective equipment such as face shields, sanitary and safety equipment, protective gloves, and arm and belly guards. That means employees who are required by safety laws to don and doff protective gear must be compensated for the time it takes to do so.
The text of the Administrator Interpretation may be found at: www.dol.gov/whd/opinion/adminIntrprtn/FLSA/2010/FLSAAI2010_2.pdf.