Donning-doffing to be addressed by collective bargaining

by Joel Crews
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BALTIMORE — An appeals court decision on a class-action lawsuit brought against Allen Family Food by 250 poultry-processing plant workers seeking compensation for time spent donning and doffing protective gear, ruled against the plaintiffs.

In the case of Sepulveda v. Allen Family Food, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the fourth Circuit ruled that the decision of whether or not to pay employees for time required to put on and remove protective gear should be made during collective bargaining between union representatives and the company.

Arthur Brewer, the company’s attorney said, "The Fair Labor Standards Act specifically allows unionized employers to bargain with the union over that issue." The ruling sets an important precedent in the region, he said.

"Employers like Allen Family Foods can find comfort in knowing that if they have agreed with the union about whether changing clothes is compensable time or not, that agreement will not later be found unenforceable, and the employer will not be subject to a massive liability for unpaid wages," Mr. Brewer said.

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