When a collective bargaining agreement excludes it, the time employees spend changing into and out of their work clothes is not compensable working time. Additionally, when the time employees spend traveling to and from work is not an integral and indispensable part of the job, it is non-compensable time. The Seventh Circuit, which covers Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, recently ruled against steel workers claiming a right to compensation for such time.  

Clothes-Changing Time: The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Portal-to-Portal Act (“P2P”) allow for collective bargaining agreements to exclude from “hours worked” time spent changing clothes at the beginning and end of each shift. Presumably, the bargained-for wages reflect this exclusion. The term “clothes” is not limited to uniforms—it can include safety equipment, such as a hard hat or work gloves. The steel workers had a collective bargaining agreement excluding from hours worked the time spent changing into and out of work clothes, and so they could not recover additional time under the FLSA and P2P.

Travel Time: Travel time is only compensable if it is an integral and indispensable part of the job’s principal activities. Travel time spent between principal activities is not compensable under the FLSA and the P2P. Traveling from the locker room to the work site is not an integral and indispensable part of the job’s principal activities. Thus, the court refused to grant compensation to the steel workers for travel time between the locker room and the work site.  

Notably, at least one court is in disagreement with the Seventh Circuit. The Sixth Circuit (Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee) found that non-compensable changing time is a “principal activity” and employees must be compensated for time spent traveling to and from the clothes-changing location to the work site. Because violations of these requirements can lead to class or collective action lawsuits by employees and former employees, please contact your relationship attorney with any questions or concerns.