Supreme Court says safety gear = clothes. Should I care?

gavelpictureYes, at least a little. It’s true that the Supreme Court’s decision today in Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp. only directly impacts employers whose employees are unionized, wear safety gear and aren’t paid for the time spent “donning and doffing” their safety gear before and after their shift.  However, Sandifer is a unanimous decision (other than a footnote with which Justice Sotomayor disagreed) from the Supreme Court that relies on a common sense interpretation of the statutory language and reaches an employer-friendly result.  The decision also includes an interesting discussion of the de minimis rule (which employers often rely on to avoid paying employees for incidential, very short periods of off the clock work).  It remains to be seen how courts will interpret today’s decision.

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