591 F.3d 209 (4th Cir. 2009)
Sanjuanita SEPULVEDA; Angela Salinas; Jose Sanchez Rivera, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated; David Bailey; Sean Bradham; Clara Bennett; Victor Burgos Rivera; Vence Byrd; Hada Cardenas; Angel Colmenares; Yachira Davila; Hector Esmurria; Garvina Gibbs; Margaret Gibbs; Roger Gonzales; Patricia Gutierrez; Selena Hancock; Cesar Hernandez; Pattie Hinton; William Jackson; Thomas Jacobs; Robin Lott; Maricruz Luyando; Maria Mejia; Larry Miller; Joana Nieves; Keclaine Normil; Serge Normil; Kenny Ortiz; Ada Rosa Batiz Ortiz; Angel Perez; Mariano Perez; Troy Phillips; Sonia Cortes Picart; Eloina Ramirez; Manuel Ramirez; Jessica Rentas; Glorimar Rivera; Myriam Rivera; Alejandro Escalante Roblero; Jose Sanchez; Alan Savage; Pedro Barreto Tiado; Maria Del Torres Carmen; Asuncion Torre; Cortez Truitt; Jose Valentin; Monserrate Velez; Roland Woods; Nora L. Alvarado; Luis Rivera Flecha; Alejandro Tzum Vicente; Ivonne Gonzalez; Miguel Martin Leon; Olga Malpica; Francisca Perez; Jose Rico; Evelyn Trinidad Lieras; Marizol Zaya Jimenez; Jose J. Castro; Dianira Cotto Diaz; Enis Dalisjo Valles; Moises Flores Carbonell; Emelda Gomez; Johnny Lupo Leon; Serafin Morales; Felix Quintana Maldonado; Essau Rivera; Alexis Alameda; Esperanza Alvarez; Lory Alvino-Lopez; Ramon Cruz Serges; Johnny Huertas; Edgardo Jimenez Molina; Fernando Natareno; Alicia Ortiz Sanchez; Julio Reyes Perez; Albert Torres Morales; Hector S. Velasquez; Jennifer Valentin Velez; Carmen Acevedo; Celines Lopez Carmona; Roberta Martinez; Elizabeth Medellin; Keila Montanez Santos; Yesenia Vega; Gladys Arroyo; Karina Belaskes Piris; Jose O. Garcia; Suzette Garcia Barbosa; Santos Gramajo Mazariegos; Michael Guerena Pagan; Manuel J. Hernandez; Gloria Kidwell; Veronica S. Lugo; Jorge E. Medina Gonzalez; Pedro C. Nieves; Rodolfo Ramirez Lopez; Judy C. Ramos; Wilfredo J. Rodriguez; Jose Luiz Sanchez; Harry Santiago; Rebert Amisial; Rosita Amisial; Kenneth A. Armstrong; David W. Badger; Dorothy M. Bailey; Filomena Bartolon; Martha Bell; Maria Berduo; Galen Byerly; Dieunathan Custin; Hector Colon Class; Jairo Corado; Allison M. Davis; Lionel Bueno; Mimose Delius; Marilitza Ferrer-Figueroa; Geraldine Foreman; Charles D. Freeman; Virginia Gaona; Burnell Gibbs; Elizabeth Gonzalez-Colon; Abilio Hernandez; Alejandra Hidalgo; Kathy D. Houchens; Lola M. Jackson; Arthur Johnson; Marvin Keaton; Maria A. Lagunas; Sheila J. Lopez; Tito Lopez; Wanda Ivette Luciano Solis; Leroy Mann, Sr.; Jean Marcelin; Marcelina L. Mariot; Lorraine Miles; Samantha Mireles; Eduardo Morales; Nancy Ortiz Nieves; Lainya Noel; Heriberto C. Olivo; Marilyn Ortiz Rodriguez; Sharon N. Ortiz; Larry D. Parker; Yahaira Pagan; Vainqueur Paul; Metellus Pierre-Louis; Gladys E. Ramos; Luz N. Ramos Ortiz; Ivonia Raymond; Alexander J. Richardson; Jean Riche; Lula Riddick; Walter Rivera Rosa; Christine Roundtree; Rafael R. Santiago; Pelizia Satirin; Elaine Sheppard; Saida Soto; Esther Re Sutton; Charlie Thomas; Jonathan Torres Figueroa; Matthew D. Trago; Silvia Truitt; Jackie D. Tull; Mario Velasquez; Roberto Velasquez Figueroa; Lucien Vernet; Elizabeth Vitela; Alex Washington; Ruth Ann White; Gary D. Williams; Linda Woods; Eliot Yase Velez; Yahaira Navarro Gonzales; Lidia Nunez Rodriguez; Juan Rodriguez; Gladys M. Stephens; Aida N. Texeira Melendez; Freddie A. Torres; Jimmie Torres Rivera; Jonathan D. Travies; Ceferino J. Vasquez; Brian Williams; Agapito Alvarado; Laura Ascencio; Clinton A. Beckett; Edwin Borrero; Jose Caballero; Christian Cajigas; Andrea Carter; Gloria Castaneda; Jacob Ceus; Eduardo Colon Rivera; Yajaira Cruz; Lucy Cruz Hiraldo; Thomas Daniels; Lianette De Jesus; Jannie M. Evans; Charitable Exantus; Wanda Fernandez; Francisco R. Ferrer; Lefils Flores; Marcellus M. Fooks; Eli S. Garcia; Manuel Gaucin; Robert Gedeon; Annie George; Norma I. Girald; James A. Green; Annette Gustin; Jacqueline Gustin; Harold A. Harris; Jean A. Larkin; Keith P. Lofland; Estel Maxion; Araceli Medellin; Donneil Mark Murray; Ramon Oliva; Marta Ortiz; Flora Ortiz Morales; Angel Luis Perez; Archibald Pierre; Odette Pierre; Charles L. Pinder; Jacqueline Regusme; Gleceria V. Reyes; Roberto Dennis Rivera; Raul M. Rodriguez; Wanda Rodriguez; Jahaira Rodriguez Conde; Samuel Roque-Ramos; Samuel Roque-Ramos; Marcos A. Santiago; Brenda Shields; William Henry Teagle; Willmari Torres Reyes; Hamara Vazguez; Elimas Velasquez; Julio M. Velasquez; William L. Bagwell, Jr.; Sharlene Dial; Jeffrey Hancock; Laverne Harris; Harry A. Ortiz; Jose Ramirez; Cristina Rodriguez; Carl Stallings, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
ALLEN FAMILY FOODS, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellee.
United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.
December 29, 2009
Argued: Oct. 28, 2009.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
C. Christopher Brown, Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellants.
Arthur Mortimer Brewer, Shawe & Rosenthal, LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.
Jane R. Flanagan, Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellants. Eric Hemmendinger, Teresa D. Teare, Shawe & Rosenthal, LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.
Before WILKINSON and NIEMEYER, Circuit Judges, and Anthony J. TRENGA, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation.
Affirmed by published opinion.
Judge WILKINSON wrote the opinion, in which Judge NIEMEYER and Judge TRENGA joined.
WILKINSON, Circuit Judge:
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (2006), employers and unions may agree through collective bargaining to exclude " any time spent in changing clothes ... at the beginning or end of each workday" from compensable work time. § 203( o ). In this case, we are asked to determine whether the donning and doffing of protective gear at a poultry processing plant constitutes " changing clothes" within the meaning of Section 203( o ). We conclude that it does. Consequently, the employer and union here may-as they currently have-exclude donning and doffing from compensable work time.
Our holding, of course, does not mean that employees should not be paid for time spent donning and doffing protective gear. Instead, it simply recognizes that the purpose of Section 203( o ) is to leave this issue to the collective-bargaining process. Employers and unions are free to determine for themselves how much compensable time should be allocated and for what activities of " changing clothes." This sort of fact-intensive determination has classically been grist for the mill of collective bargaining, and Congress ensured that employers and unions could keep it that way by enacting Section 203( o ).
Allen Family Foods, Inc. (" the company" ) is engaged in the business of processing poultry. It operates several plants, including one in Harbeson, Delaware that employs approximately 1,200 people. A production line conveys poultry through this plant for processing and then packaging for eventual distribution.
The employees who work on the production line are required to wear the following items: (1) safety, steel-toe shoes, (2) a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) required smock, (3) a USDA required plastic apron, (4) safety glasses, (5) ear plugs, (6) a bump cap, (7) a hair net, (8) USDA required rubber gloves, (9) sleeves, and (10) arm shields. The company commonly refers to these items as either " protective gear" or " personal protective equipment."
At the beginning of each workday, production employees must don these items. They typically do so in the plant's locker room or as they walk from the locker room to the production area. Once they enter that area, they sanitize their gear by dipping their gloves into a tank, splashing the liquid solution onto their aprons, and stepping through a footbath. After ward, they take their places along the production line and begin the task of processing poultry.
Each day, the employees receive a thirty-minute lunch break, during which no chickens are placed on the production line. Employees are free to leave...