Ninth Circuit Rules Officers’ Donning and Doffing Time is Not Compensable Under FLSA
On March 25, 2010, in a long awaited decision, the Ninth Circuit held that the time spent putting on and taking off required uniforms and gear does not constitute compensable work for police officers. In Bamonte v. City of Mesa (9th Cir. 08-16206) the claimants, police officers employed by the city of Mesa, Arizona, brought a suit contending that the City violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to compensate police officers for time spent putting on and taking off their uniforms and gear at the beginning and end of their shift, a process known as donning and doffing. The police officers argued that strong relationship between their uniform and gear and the performance of their duties makes the time they spend putting the uniforms on and off compensable. They further argued that, although they have the option of donning and doffing their uniform and gear at home, for many reasons it is preferable for police officers to do so at work.
The Ninth Circuit disagreed. It emphasized the fact that the police officers are not required by law or by the nature of their work to don and doff their uniforms and gear at the employer’s premises. The Court reasoned that to the extent officers chose to dress at work, their decision was strictly a matter of employee convenience, and, as a result, their decision to change clothes at work did not render that time compensable. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s ruling that the donning and doffing of uniforms and gear by police officers is not compensable under the FLSA.
This decision may have significant ramifications for both private and public employers. To the extent any employer requires its employees to wear a uniform (or gear), this decision provides a framework for determining whether an employee is entitled to compensation. Although certain factors or set of facts may lead to variations, an employer requiring its employees to don and doff uniform and gear at work are likely required to compensate employees for that time, but employees are generally not entitled to compensation if they have the right to change at home at the beginning and end of their workday.