Alvarez v. IBP, Inc., 339 F.3d 894 (9th Cir. 2003)

Meat packing employees of IBP, Inc. (the world’s largest producer of fresh beef, pork and related products) filed a class action lawsuit alleging violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The employees (all of whom were non-exempt from the overtime requirements of state and federal law) alleged that they should have been paid for the time spent “donning and doffing” the protective gear that they were required to wear while working in the meat packing facilities. The Ninth Circuit held that while the employees should have been compensated for the time they spent putting on and taking off protective gear that was unique to their work at IBP (e.g., liquid-repelling sleeves, aprons and leggings, Kevlar gloves, mesh aprons, etc.), they did not have to be paid for the minimal time spent donning and doffing nonunique protective gear such as hardhats and safety goggles. Since IBP was on notice of the FLSA’s requirements, its violation of that statute was “willful,” resulting in an extension of the applicable statute of limitations period from two to three years and an award of liquidated damages against the company.