- A Disney employee has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that it is violating federal law by failing to pay workers for time spent donning and doffing required outfits, including costumes and uniforms.
- The putative collective action also alleges that Walt Disney Parks & Resorts engages in uneven time rounding practices.
- In court filings, Disney noted that a collective bargaining agreement is at play and may require the court’s interpretation (De Oliveira v. Walt Disney Parks & Resorts U.S. Inc., 8:17-cv-01241 (C.D. Calif. July 20, 2017)).
Courts have long struggled with defining compensable working time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Some recent high-profile lawsuits have focused on the time employees spend in security checks both before and after their shifts. Amazon beat those allegations under federal law but Apple is still defending such claims in California.
Other suits, like the one filed against Disney, have sought to determine whether “donning and doffing” items such as uniforms or safety equipment is a compensable activity. The FLSA is clear that employers usually don’t have to pay workers for “changing clothes” but, when the clothes that the employees must wear are “integral and indispensable” to their duties, that time becomes compensable.
So what qualifies as “clothes” and how do you determine whether they’re indispensable? The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t fully addressed the question and the federal appeals courts have reached disparate conclusions.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has made clear that the question is very fact-specific, so employers may want to carefully evaluate whether any work-related activity performed before or after a shift is “integral and indispensable” as defined in the relevant circuit court and, therefore, compensable.
Understanding this distinction can have major implications down the line. If an employer knew or should have known that employees were working off the clock, courts can award double damages, and liability can add up quickly in these cases.