In 2003, an interesting case was brought before the Supreme Court. This case can be researched at depth online, but we will offer you a summary because we feel it is important to bring law interpretations to the general public. This case, Clifton Sandifer v. United States Steel Corporation, brought into light the interesting point of how times change yet laws sometimes do not. Sandifer et al believed certain laws should be changed to reflect how expectations in the workforce change with time and improvements in the industry. Let’s see what you think about this case.
This case began when workers at the United States Steel Corporation brought a class action lawsuit up against their company. Their claim was based off the clause in the Fair Labor Standards Act which states that “the period of time during which a covered employee must be paid begins when the worker engages in a principal activity”. They had argued that the safety gear which they had to put on was part of a principal activity. This is because often, these workers would have to change their entire outfits to be correctly protected during the job. These safety regulations were required by work and therefore are a critical part of their day. The issue arose, however, that section 203(o) states that “an employer need not compensate a worker for time spent in ‘changing clothes’”. This brought about the question that came to the Supreme Court: What exactly is the definition of “changing clothes”?
One of the main arguments which the workers brought forth was the amount of time it took to change into their personal protective equipment, or PPE. Workers stated they were kept track of by a time card at the entry to the plant. The workers would be expected to arrive anywhere from twelve to twenty minutes early in order to don the correct outer wear and would be marked late and have their pay docked if this was not the case. The issue, however, was they were only paid for the eight hours they stood at their post and not from the time they clocked in. If overtime is paid correctly at one and one half times the regular rate, this would obviously add up to quite a bit over each pay period.
Do you think Sandifer makes a valid point or do you believe that U.S. Steel Corp. is in the right by not compensating them by the wording of the law? Read on to part two and see if the Supreme Court agrees with you or not.