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Donning/Doffing Is Still Work in the Fourth Circuit

Back in June, I wrote about Mountaire Farms, Inc. v. Perez, 650 F.3d 350 (4th Cir. 2011).  In that case, the Fourth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling that held that time spent by chicken processing plant workers donning and doffing their protective gear was “work,” and therefore compensable, under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The employees in Mountaire sought wages for the time that they spent putting on and taking off gloves, smocks, glasses, boots, and ear plugs.  The Fourth Circuit held that the time was compensable because it was an “integral and indispensable” part of the of the “poultry processing industry”.  The employer filed a petition to the Supreme Court, asking it to review the case.  The employer hoped that the different standards that have developed among the various federal circuits would be sufficient reason for the Supreme Court to address the issue.  Alas, on February 27, the Supreme Court denied the employer’s petition without comment.  For the time being, the Fourth Circuit’s determination stands.  The effect is that employers in the Fourth Circuit should be sure to compensate employees for any time spent performing pre- or post-work tasks that are an“integral and indispensable” part of their work.  To error on the side of caution may prevent a similar suit in the future.

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