In Bamonte v. City of Mesa, (— F.3d —-, C.A.9 (Ariz.), March 25, 2010), the United States Court of Appeals considered an appeal from police officers that the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) required their employer to compensate them for the time they spent donning and doffing their uniforms at the police station at the beginning and end of their shifts. The court ruled that they need not be compensated for that time because they are not required to don and doff their uniforms at the police station, but merely were permitted to do so for the officers’ own convenience.
Fred Bamonte and other police officers employed by the City of Mesa, Arizona (“City”), brought suit in federal district court seeking payment for the time they spent donning and doffing their uniforms at the police station before and after their shifts. The district court ruled that because the officers were not required to don and doff their uniforms at the station, but were free to do so at home before coming to and after leaving from work if they chose, the City was not required to pay them for the time they spent doing so. The officers appealed.
The court specified that the FLSA requires employers to pay employees for all “work,” defined as “principal activities,” but also cited the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947, which clarifies that the FLSA does not require an employer to compensate employees for “activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to said principal activity or activities.”
Several cases have found that changing into work clothes has been held to be a “principal activity,” under certain circumstances. When employers require employees to change clothes on the premises, for the primary benefit of the employer, the time spent putting them on and taking them off must be included as compensable time. The court said, “In each of these cases, the employees were required by their employers, by law, by rules, or by the nature of their work to don and doff their uniforms and gear at the employers’ premises.”
In Alvarez v. IBP, Inc., 339 F.3d 894, (9th Cir. 2003), the test for determining whether time spent on an activity was compensable was whether it was an “integral and indispensable duty,” “controlled or required by the employer,” and “pursued necessarily and primarily for the benefit of the employer.” Here, the court said, the officers were not required to change into and out of their uniforms at the station, but did so for the sake of their own convenience and for their own benefit, not for the benefit of the employer. It followed, the court reasoned, that if employees who are free to dress at home are not compensated for that time, those who choose to dress at their job premises for convenience should also not be compensated.
The court ruled that since no requirement of law, rule, the employer, or the nature of the work mandates donning and doffing uniforms at the police station, that activity is not a “principal activity” of the job and is not compensable under FLSA. The district court’s judgment was affirmed.
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