In order to perform their work effectively, many employees are required to wear special clothing, such as safety equipment, PSE, safety equipment, work gear, protective gear, hats, boots, aprons, and other equipment. Depending on the job, it can take over 10 minutes to put on and take off required clothing before and after each shift or breaks. In some cases, employers may insist that this “donning and doffing” be done on the employee’s own time.
Am I supposed to be paid for the time it takes for me to put on and take off my work gear (safety gear, uniform, bunny suit, Tyvek coveralls, etc.)?
In legal terms, this is called "donning" (putting your safety gear, uniform, etc.) on and "doffing" (taking off your uniform, safety gear, etc.).
California donning and doffing law refers to California law that employees must be compensated for time spent changing into and out of: uniforms, safety equipment, work gear, PSE, bunny suits, safety gear that is need in order to perform their work duties. Employers must pay for all time that employees are under their control. Even if it is only takes a minute or two to put on or take off the work gear.
California employers can be compelled to pay workers for any pre- or post-shift activities that take place in service of the employer, even if the employee has not begun his principal work activities. Any tasks that are considered to be essential to the employee’s principal work activity should be compensable as part of an employee’s weekly pay, including:
Police officers, nurses, doctors, mechanics, and other professionals who are required to wear uniforms should be paid to do so on-premises, especially if their work activities require a change of clothes mid-shift.
Some workers need to wear safety gear for the full duration of their shifts, such as food service workers or biochemical engineers. In many cases, the protective equipment needed takes several minutes to put on and take off, and doing so at home could compromise both the safety and sterility of the uniform. Any changing of clothes that cannot be done at home without posing a threat to the worker or work environment must be paid for by your employer.
Part of the silicon wafer manufacturing process, phone manufacturing process, and/or computer manufacturing process takes place in "cleanrooms" -- environments that have few of the air-borne impurities that exist in the ambient air. Cleanrooms are classified by the number of particles of contamination permitted per cubic foot. Therefore, a Class 10,000 cleanroom has more impurities than a Class 10 cleanroom.
All employees who work in cleanrooms must wear gowns to help maintain the environment. The gowns worn in the cleanrooms are referred to as "bunny suits." The process of preparing oneself to enter the cleanroom is called "gowning."
Under California law, the time is takes workers to put on bunny suits and take off bunny suits must be paid work time. Companies can not legally require you to gown while you are not getting paid.
Under California law, you are entitled to rest breaks and meal breaks. Companies that require you to perform gowning (putting on your bunny suit or taking off your bunny suit), during part of the rest break or part of the meal break are in violation of California law.
You are not only entitled to be compensated for this time, but it is also a violation of California law. You are entitled to an hour's pay each time this occurs. California Labor Code Section 226.7.
Food Processing workers
Workers in the food processing industry are usually required to put on and take off safety equipment and/or personal hygiene equipment in order to work in the food processing plant. Under California law, you must be paid for the time it takes you to put on and take off this equipment.
Further, you are entitled to rest breaks and meal breaks. No part of your rest break or meal break can be spent putting on or taking off uniforms, protective gear, equipment, safety equipment and the like.
What are some of the industries where donning and doffing wage violations regularly occur?
What is the California law concerning getting paid for donning and duffing / putting on and taking off equipment for my work?
Under California law, you must be paid for all time that you are under the control of the employer. Sali v. Corona Reg'l Med. Ctr., 909 F.3d 996, 1009-10 (9th Cir. 2018). Workers that are donning and duffing - meaning, they are putting on clothes or equipment in order to perform their job - must be paid for that time. Ballaris v. Wacker Siltronic Corp., 370 F.3d 901, 903-904 (2004); Alvarez v. IBP, Inc., 339 F.3d 894 (9th Cir. 2003); Negrete v. Conagra Foods, Inc., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76291, *
What if it only takes a minute or two in order to put on and/or take off the equipment/ work gear? Am I still supposed to be compensated for this short amount of time?
Under California law, employers must compensate you for any regular time that you spend before or after your shift (or during meal breaks and/or rest breaks) that you must perform. Thus, even if it only takes a minute or two, then the company must still compensate you for this time.
Whenever you are under the control of your employer - you must be paid for that time. Sali v. Corona Reg'l Med. Ctr., 909 F.3d 996, 1009-10 (9th Cir. 2018).
Your employer must pay you for this time, even if it is a short amount of time. Troester v. Starbucks Corp., 5 Cal. 5th 829, 847 (2018). Even when they only take a minute or two to perform.
Clients that are happy they got their check in a California Wage Case
Donning and doffing law violations can lead to overtime violations
A full-time employee who has been docked pay for pre- and post-shift work could be entitled to a significant amount of overtime pay.
Donning and doffing law violations can lead to meal period violations, rest break violations, paycheck stub violations and waiting time penalties (and we're talking very significant sums of money)
In most instances, when a company violates the law relating to donning and doffing it also leads to meal period violations and rest period violations. This is because workers will usually have to spend part of their meal break time and rest break time taking off and then putting back on their uniforms, safety gear and/or protective equipment. Most workers can't be expected to rest or eat while wearing this gear.
Under California law, you are entitled to an hour's pay every time you aren't provided a meal period and an hours pay every time you're not provided a rest break. California Labor Code Section 226.7.
In addition, as with all wages owed to workers, there are usually paycheck stub violations based upon the failure to list all the hours worked and the wages earned on the workers pay stubs. California Labor Code Section 226.
Finally, when all wages are not paid at time of termination, you are owed 30 days pay. California Labor Code Section 203.
In order to see how these all really add up fast, I suggest you check out the case studies. The Case Studies illustrate how the donning and doffing law work and how the meal period violations, rest break violations, pay stub violations and waiting time penalties all add up.
Case study - Kitchen and serving workers - donning and doffing (putting on and taking off smocks, aprons and hairnets)
1. Relieves its employees of all duty,
2. Relinquishes control over their activities and
3. Permits them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30 minute break, and
4. Does not impede or discourage them from doing so. Or provide an incentive to forego.
Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004, 1040 (Cal. 2012).
$ 3,500 meal period premiums
$ 3,500 rest period premiums
$ 4,000 paycheck stub violations
$ 4,200 waiting time penalties
In addition, tere are numerous potential PAGA penalties in addition to these wages and stautory penalties.
Bill Turley was called "California's Leading Wage and Hour Class Action Lawyer"
We are not saying this to brag. We are telling you this so you will know that Bill knows what he’s talking about. Bill Turley represented the workers in the leading California Supreme Court case on California unpaid wages law - Brinker vs. Superior Court.
Bill wrote the winning briefs in the recent California Supreme Court cases - Augustus vs. Superior Court (the leading case on rest breaks) and Williams vs. Superior Court (the case that gives you the right to getting the names of your co-employees in a PAGA case).
Bill is regularly asked to testify before the California State Senate and the California State Assembly on unpaid wages law. Bill helped write the recent changes to California's unpaid wages PAGA laws.
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These discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, photos, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation.