Nov. 9, 2005 – In the first workersâ€™ rights ruling of the John Roberts era, the Supreme Court on Wednesday found that employers must pay workers for the time it takes them to don protective gear and travel to their workstations. The unanimous decision upheld one lower-court ruling and partially overturned another, while finding that employers could deny pay for time spent waiting for protective equipment and uniforms.
The decision consolidated two cases -- IBP v Alvarez and Tum v Barber Foods -- dealing with company policies denying compensation to employees for transit time after workers put on the required safety gear. Last year, two federal courts reached separate conclusions on the issue, with an East Coast court finding in favor of the employer, Barber Foods, and a court on the West Coast finding for workers in the IBP case.
Writing for the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens said: "We hold that any activity that is â€˜integral and indispensableâ€™ to a â€˜principle activityâ€™ is itself a â€˜principal activity.â€™" The ruling holds that employers must pay employees for work-related activities carried out during a "continuous workday," but, since waiting for equipment or other supplies is "two steps removed" from work activities, companies do not have to pay for that time.
In a statement yesterday, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Joe Hansen applauded the ruling. The union represents workers with IBP
"Today, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the position long held by workers and the [UCFW]," Hansen said. "The UFCW has advocated for decades that all required time is paid time."