The U.S. District Court has granted a partial summary judgment motion filed by a group of police officers seeking compensation under the FLSA for time spent donning and doffing uniforms and equipment. Lemmon v. City of San Leandro, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 902.
The Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 relieves employers from compensating employees for "activities which are preliminary or postliminary to [the] principal activity or activities." 29 U.S.C. § 254(a). The Supreme Court ruled that "activities performed either before or after the regular work shift" are compensable "if those activities are an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities for which [the] workmen are employed." Steiner v. Mitchell (1956) 350 U.S. 247, 256. In Steiner, production employees at a battery plant were required to don protective work clothes before commencing work and to shower and change back at the end of the work day. The Court held that employees should be compensated for the time spent donning and doffing their protective work clothes because the process was "integral and indispensable" to allay the dangers inherent in the principal activity of battery production. The Ninth Circuit has held that donning and doffing of both unique and non-unique protective gear are integral and indispensable to the employee's principal activities if they are: (i) necessary to the principal work performed; and (ii) done for the benefit of the employer. The standard has been applied to, among other situations, liquid-repelling sleeves, aprons and leggings used by meat workers, and "bunny suits" worns by employees working in so-called "clean rooms."
In Lemmon, the court applied the same standard to the donning and doffing of police uniforms, and found the time compensable. The decision is particularly interesting because it reaches a different conclusion than others decided earlier this year, including Judge Breyer's decision in Martin v. City of Richmond, No (N.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 2007) 2007 WL 2317590 ("police officer's uniform, in and of itself, does not assist the officer in performing his duties.") and Judge Sabraw's decision in Abbe v. City of San Diego (S.D. Cal. Nov. 9, 2007) 2007 WL 4146696 ("the relevant inquiry is not whether the uniform itself or the safety gear itself is indispensable to the job - they most certainly are - but rather, the relevant inquiry is whether the nature of the work requires the donning and doffing process to be done on the employer's premises.")