In recent years, one of the hottest types of collective actions against employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is what is commonly called a “donning and doffing claim”—a lawsuit for unpaid wages for time employees spent changing clothes for work, such as putting on uniforms, safety gear, and the like. In a recent decision, Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp. (pdf), No. 12-417, the Supreme Court unanimously clarified the rules for these collective actions.

One of the major fights in donning and doffing suits is over the meaning of a key provision of the FLSA that exempts employers from having to compensate employees for off-the-clock “time spent in changing clothes … at the beginning or end of each workday” (29 U.S.C. § 203(o)) if a collective bargaining agreement so provides. Many agreements do exactly that.

Nonetheless, parties have litigated for years over what activities are exempt under Section 203(o). The plaintiffs’ bar typically takes a very narrow view of what constitutes “changing clothes” under the statute. The Court’s decision today takes a far more practical view of the statute. Sandifer makes clear that time spent donning or doffing protective gear that is (1) designed and used to cover the body and (2) commonly regarded as an article of dress—including hard hats, protective jackets, and protective coverings for the arms and legs—is exempt if the employees’ collective bargaining agreement so provides. In addition, minimal time spent putting on or removing other protective gear (such as safety glasses and earplugs) during this time is likewise exempt. Sandifer is therefore likely to reduce the number of circumstances that would allow plaintiffs to succeed in bringing donning-and-doffing lawsuits under the FLSA.

We provide more details about the decision in Sandifer after the jump.

Continue Reading Do Employers Have To Pay Unionized Workers For Time Spent Donning and Doffing Safety Gear? Supreme Court Says No.

Some observers of California wage-and-hour class actions contended that the Brinker v. Superior Court—a key decision we have discussed in the past—had sounded the death knell for class certification in those cases. of California wage and hour class actions. Not so fast, according to the California Courts of Appeal, which have, in four published opinions, reversed four separate trial court orders that had denied certification in wage and hour class action cases:


Continue Reading Recent Appellate Decisions Underscore That Wage and Hour Class Actions are Alive and Well in California Despite Brinker

Former interns used to get revenge against their employers by writing tell-all blog posts and memoirs. Now, they’re lending their names to plaintiffs’ lawyers, who then file wage-and-hour class or collective actions alleging that interns must be paid like hourly employees.

The unpaid internship is among the hottest areas in wage-and-hour litigation. Two of the more noteworthy cases—that so far have come out in opposite ways—are currently pending in the Southern District of New York: Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures and Wang v. Hearst Corporation (pdf).

In Fox Searchlight, former interns from the film Black Swan alleged that they
Continue Reading The Fate of Hollywood Internship Programs May Rest With the Second Circuit

We’ve been reporting on the constitutional challenge to President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, which has serious implications for the recess appointment of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray. Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted the government’s unopposed petition for a writ of certiorari from the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Noel Canning v. NLRB.

The Court granted review of three questions:

  • Whether the President’s recess-appointment power may be exercised during a recess that occurs within a session of the Senate, or is instead limited to recesses that occur between enumerated sessions of the Senate.
  • Whether


Continue Reading Supreme Court Grants Review in Recess Appointments Challenge

A quick tip to employers facing class actions brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—don’t forget about the EEOC’s statutory duty to investigate the claim before filing suit.

Before the EEOC may file a lawsuit, an employee must have made a timely charge of discrimination of which the EEOC timely notified the employer and the EEOC must have investigated the charge, determined that there was reasonable cause to sue, and attempted conciliation with the employer. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b), (e).

Courts generally have rejected attempts by employers to call into question the sufficiency of the EEOC’s pre-suit investigation.
Continue Reading Court Allows Employer Discovery Into Whether EEOC Actually Investigated Before Filing Discrimination Suit

We’ve blogged about the D.C. Circuit’s ruling in Noel Canning v. NLRB (pdf) that President Obama’s three 2012 recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board are unconstitutional. The consequence of that decision was to invalidate the NLRB decision against Noel Canning for lack of a quorum of NLRB members. The decision also cast a dark cloud over many other NLRB decisions, as well as the recess appointment of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head Richard Cordray.

As we mentioned, the Solicitor General already filed a petition for certiorari in Noel Canning. The National Chamber Litigation Center has just filed
Continue Reading US Chamber of Commerce Takes Up Recess Appointments Fight in Supreme Court

We’ve previously written about the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Noel Canning v. NLRB, which held that President Obama’s three recess appointments in 2012 to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are unconstitutional. The Solicitor General has just filed a petition for certiorari, asking the Supreme Court to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision.

The Obama administration’s decision to seek Supreme Court in Noel Canning is unsurprising. By invalidating the recess appointments to the NLRB, the D.C. Circuit’s decision undermines every action by the NLRB since those appointments were made on January 4, 2012. The decision also casts a dark
Continue Reading U.S. Seeks Supreme Court Review of Noel Canning v. NLRB in an Effort to Rehabilitate Recess Appointments to NLRB (and CFPB)

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (“FLSA”) permits an employee to file a “collective action” for damages against an employer individually and on behalf of other “similarly situated” employees who later choose to join the lawsuit. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). In Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, before any other employee had opted to join the suit, the defendant made an offer of judgment to the named plaintiff for the full relief sought by her individual claims. Today, the Supreme Court held—by a 5-4 vote—that the district court had properly dismissed the FLSA collective action for lack of
Continue Reading Supreme Court Holds that Plaintiff Whose Individual Claims Were Mooted by an Offer of Judgment Lacks Standing to Maintain FLSA Collective Action

Since Concepcion, the plaintiffs’ bar has been exhorting courts to recognize exceptions to its holding that courts may not refuse to enforce an arbitration agreement on the ground that it precludes class actions.  In the employment context, the plaintiffs’ bar thought that it had a winner with Chen-Oster v. Goldman Sachs,  in which a magistrate judge concluded (and a district court agreed) that Title VII bars enforcement of such agreements when the named plaintiff seeks to rely on “pattern-or-practice” evidence of discrimination.  Last week, however, the Second Circuit reversed Chen-Oster and closed the loophole in Parisi v. Goldman,
Continue Reading Second Circuit Reverses Denial Of Individual Arbitration In Title VII Class Action

The California Supreme Court granted review last week in Franco v. Arakelian Enterprises Inc., No. S207660, in which the California Court of Appeal had refused to enforce an agreement to arbitrate on an individual basis in the context of a wage-and-hour class action. For more on Franco, please see our prior post. The California Supreme Court explained that it will hold its disposition of Franco pending its decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation of Los Angeles, another case involving arbitration and wage-and-hour class actions. We have discussed Iskanian in more detail in a prior post.  
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Grants Review In Employment Arbitration Case