CHICAGO — ThyssenKrupp Waupaca Inc. asked the United States Supreme Court to make a ruling on the class action overtime lawsuit the company’s iron foundry employees brought against it. The iron foundry employees lost their case in district court, but won on appeal. Now ThyssenKrupp is trying one final appeal to the Supreme Court regarding its non-union employees’ right to receive pay for donning and doffing work-related clothing under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Foundry Workers’ Claim
Foundry workers melt down metals to pour into molds. Nearly 500 current and former ThyssenKrupp workers from Waupaca foundries in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Tennessee make up the current class action. They claim ThyssenKrupp violated the FLSA when it failed to pay them for the time they spent showering and changing into and out of, or donning and doffing, protective gear. This failure to record and pay workers for their time resulted in the denied wages and potential loss of overtime pay.
The district court ruled in favor of ThyssenKrupp saying the donning and doffing time was not compensable because the activities were not required by either the company or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Court of Appeals, on the other hand, found in favor of the workers saying that, even though it was optional under the company’s policies and there are no OSHA requirements, showering and changing clothes may be necessary and required due to the nature of foundry work.
Donning, Doffing, And The Courts
Under FLSA, if donning and doffing of protective gear is “required by the nature of the employees’ work,” then the time is compensable. There is, however, a question as to what standard should be used to determine if something is required by the nature of the work. In this case one court looked to see if there was a requirement either by the employer or from the government while the other court looked specifically at the work. ThyssenKrupp wants the courts to look at whether or not the action is “integral and indispensable” to the employees’ work. The employees argue that, regardless of the standard, due to the nature of their work and the hazardous materials used at the foundry, showering and changing clothes is not only necessary, but indispensable.
The Supreme Court recently decided in favor of employers, finding donning and doffing time is noncompensable. But that decision only applies to union workers. Nearly 90 percent of factory workers, like those in this case, are not union members. If the Supreme Court accepts this case, its ruling would apply to all circuits and the majority of employees and employers who require clothing changes for work purposes.
If you are a foundry worker and must shower or wear protective gear at work, but are not paid for your time, call our knowledgeable team of overtime pay lawyers today at (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form and our experienced legal team will evaluate your case. If we accept your case, we will represent you under our No Fee Promise. This means there are no legal fees or costs unless you receive a settlement.