Police officers not entitled to compensation under FLSA for donning and doffing police gear
A federal appeals court has affirmed a district court ruling that former sheriff deputies in a Florida police department were not entitled to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for the time they spent donning and doffing police gear, and driving to and from work in marked patrol vehicles [Carlo Llorca v. Sheriff, Collier County, Florida, CA11, Dkt. No. 17-10616, 6/27/18].
The Collier and Lee County sheriff departments required all deputies to arrive for their shifts wearing a uniform and the following protective gear: a “duty belt,” a radio case, pepper mace, a baton strap, a magazine pouch, a radio, a flashlight, handcuffs, a holster, a first-responders pouch, and a ballistics vest. The deputies were allowed to, and actually did, don and doff this protective gear at home. They contend that the donning and doffing process took a total of thirty minutes per shift. The sheriffs did not pay the deputies for the time that they spent donning and doffing the protective gear.
The deputies also commuted to and from work in marked patrol vehicles. The sheriffs required the deputies to have their radios on during the commute, listen to calls in the district through which they were driving, and respond to major calls and emergencies. Additionally, the sheriffs required deputies who commuted in marked patrol vehicles to observe the roads for traffic violations and engage in general traffic law enforcement during their commutes. The sheriffs compensated the deputies for any time that the deputies spent responding to calls or emergencies, or actually enforcing traffic laws during their commutes. The sheriffs did not compensate road patrol deputies or detectives for the time that those deputies spent driving, listening to their radios, and observing the roads for traffic law violations.
The deputies sued the Collier and Lee County sheriff departments, claiming that the sheriffs violated the FLSA by failing to compensate them for time spent donning and doffing police gear, and driving to and from work in marked patrol vehicles.
Under the FLSA, you do not have to pay employees for activities that are preliminary or postliminary to the principal activities of the job. However, if activities performed before or after the regular work shift are an integral and indispensable part of the principal activities, they are compensable.
Though it’s possible that different facts would yield a different result, the court’s ruling suggests that a key factor in the analysis of compensability is whether the employer requires its employees to change in and out of uniforms at work. As a result, you may benefit from reviewing your policies and giving employees the option to change off-premises if you don’t already.