U.S. Supreme Court Hears Sandifer Case

The justices will decide whether or not workers should be paid for the time they take to put on and remove safety equipment.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Nov. 4 in Sandifer v. United States Steel Corporation, where the issue is what "changing" clothes means in the Fair labor Standards Act. This simple question became more complicated, suggests The New York Times, as lawyers and the justices debated. The unionized steelworkers initially filed a case asking to be paid for the time it took to put on and take off their work clothes (flame-resistant outerwear, gloves, boots, goggles, ear plugs, etc). U.S. Steel argued this activity falls under the category of clothing, which essentially any worker in any industry wears.

Current federal law suggests the time does not need to be compensated for if the union agrees to the exclusion through a collective bargaining agreement, according to Bloomberg News.

A three-judge appellate court previously decided that most of what the steelworkers put on is clothing "in the ordinary sense," and that items such as ear plugs and hard hats take a trivial amount of time to put on and therefore are unimportant. According to Bloomberg News, this suggests that the U.S. Supreme Court justices are likely to favor U.S. Steel when they decide the case.

For more information about the case, including the briefs, visit http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/sandifer-v-united-states-steel-corporation/.

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