Putting on the right safety gear might be a primary duty of your job, and if that is the case, then past courts have ruled that your employer has to pay you for any time you spend suiting up. One court said that the payment requirement occurs if putting on safety gear is determined to be a principle activity within the scope of work.
How do you know if safety gear is a principle activity? If you are required by law to wear any piece of equipment or clothing to do your job, then putting that item on is a principle activity. The same is true if your employer requires you to wear or use the item in any policy or if the item is a critical requirement of your job duties. In these cases, the time you spend getting ready for the job is considered time on the job.
Several years ago, a group of employees successfully sued an employer for compensation of such time. The employees worked in a chicken processing facility. Federal law required them to wear numerous items, including gloves, safety glasses, aprons, ear plugs, smocks, hair nets, caps and boots. The workers were not paid for the time to put on and take off these items at the beginning and end of each shift. During the legal action, courts at various levels ruled in the employees’ favor, stating the company had to compensate them for these principle job duties.
One reason it’s important to compensate employees for such actions is because employers should work to encourage employees to good safety habits. With no compensation, employees could rush through the tasks, resulting in accidents or exposure. If you are dealing with a workplace accident because someone was rushed in donning safety equipment or did not use the right equipment, you might have a workers’ compensation claim.
Source: HR Morning, “Pay workers to put on, take off safety gear? Federal court decides,” Christian Schappel, accessed June 03, 2016