Growing up in Nashville, Tennessee you can't help be a fan of the Goo Goo Clusters. However, as a member of a Tennessee Overtime Pay and Employment Law Firm I am greatly disappointed in my beloved candy making company if a recently filed wage theft lawsuit turns out to be true. The lawsuit filed says that the Nashville based Standard Candy Company failed to pay the employees for time the were required to spend preparing for work. Specifically, it is believed that the company did not pay for the time it took their employees to pus on their gear like uniforms, boots, and other safety equipment. In the labor law world these cases are technically known as "Donning and Doffing" cases. Donning and Doffing refers to the action of putting on or taking off protective gear, uniforms, etc
Okay, so what it is the big deal? It may just take a few minutes to put on the gear. What is that, a few dollars per day? Well here is the big deal. If a company that has hundreds or thousands of employees does this the nominal amount of wage theft from each employee can equal thousands or even millions of dollars. It is a way for companies to maximum their profits not by selling a better product but by taking advantage of its employees.
The courts have made varying rulings on whether the employee should be paid for the time of putting on their gear. The first examination is whether the employee is putting on "clothing" or is it "protective gear" . If the Court determines it to be clothes then the Fair Labor Standards Act is clear that employee do not get paid of that time. However, if it is safety gear then the employees may get paid. If it is safety gear the court will then look to see whether the time required to put on the gear is significant or does it take so little time it is not worth getting paid for. Often this comes down to experts that will recreate the time it takes to put on all of the equipment.
So it will be interesting to see how this particular Tennessee Overtime Lawsuit will develop against The Standard Candy Company. What type of gear were these employees putting on? How long did it take them? How many employees are involved? These cases can take years to resolve but regardless we hope that it results in a better working environment of all employees.
These types of cases make every employer examine their policies and procedures. Would it really be asking too much to allow your employees to clock in and then to put on their safety gear? Every penny counts to the working men and women of our state. What would these companies do if an employee asked them to pay for time while they were with their family? Obviously, the would think the employee is crazy. So why isn't it just as crazy for the employer to require the employee to be at work and to change into their work gear for free?