Video Transcript: FLSA Protects Workers Who Wear Protective Gear
Hello, I’m Matt Turner, an attorney at the law firm Sommers Schwartz. I devote much of my practice to making sure that hardworking people get paid for the time they put into their jobs. Unfortunately, many employers try to cut corners and increase profits by failing to compensate workers for tasks and activities they are required to perform each workday, and it’s wrong.
One example is a problem I frequently see in manufacturing or food processing facilities, where workers are often required by law and company policy to don (or put on) and doff (or take off) protective gear and clothing before and after every shift. The requirement is a good thing, because it promotes safety for both employees and consumers. But there are employers who make workers don and doff their gear before they punch in and after they punch out of their shifts, which sometimes involves walking significant distances between a time clock on the production floor and the locker room or changing area in another part of the facility. To put in their full shifts, workers are forced to arrive early and stay later. Over the course of a week or a month or a year, these last minutes add up, and the amount of unpaid time and wages is substantial.
Fortunately, there are laws, such as the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act— referred to as the FLSA– that protect employees from wage and overtime violations. Under the FLSA, you are entitled to compensation for any part of your job that is considered to be a principal activity. And as Hillshire Brands and JBS Packerland, two food processors operated in Michigan, recently recognized in courtroom victories we secured against them, donning and doffing gear for the benefit of the employer is a principal activity for which workers must be paid.
We have handled other cases against other employers that resulted in confidential settlements for our clients. When a workplace policy negatively affects entire groups of employees, litigation against the employer for unpaid wages and overtime can take the form of a class action, which means that the entire group of workers is represented by a single team of lawyers like the wage an hour litigation team at Sommers Schwartz.
We know how lost wages can impact people and their families, and how helpless people can feel when it comes to pursuing their employment rights for fear that their jobs might be terminated for speaking up. But you do have rights. You work hard. You put in an honest day’s work, and you expect to be paid honestly. If you believe you aren’t being paid fairly, and that your employer is taking advantage of you, please call me today to talk about your situation, and to learn how the attorneys at Sommers Schwartz can help you.