The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued its second Administrator’s Interpretation.   The Administrator Interpretations are issued by the Division in areas where it believes it is useful to clarify the law as it relates to an entire industry, a category of employees, or to all employees.

Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2010-2 discusses the Fair Labor Standards Act’s exclusion from work time for certain preliminary and postliminary activities like changing clothes.  The FLSA excludes from compensable time the time spent "changing clothes or washing at the beginning or end of each workday" if that time is excluded from compensable time pursuant to "the express terms or by custom or practice" under a collective bargaining agreement.  Interpretation 2010-2 provides that exclusion from compensable time "does not extend to protective equipment worn by employees that is required by law, by the employer, or due to the nature of the job."  Consequently, the Division takes the position that time spent changing into or out of protective equipment required by law, the employer, or the nature of the job is compensable under the FLSA.

Second, the Interpretation offers the Division’s opinion on whether whether noncompensable clothes changing can be a principal activity under the Portal to Portal Act rendering all subsequent activity compensable.  The Portal to Portal Act clarifies what activities are intended to be compensable work time such as work occurring before and after the employee’s regular work activities.  Any activity that occurs after the employee’s first principal activity and before the last principal activity is compensable.  For example, once an employee performs the first principal activity of the work day, all subsequent activity (e.g., waiting time) is compensable until the last principal activity of the workday.  It is the opinion of the Administrator that changing clothes, even if noncompensable, may be a principal activity such that it can make subsequent activities such as walking and waiting compensable.

You can download the full Administrator’s Interpretation here