The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 that Hormel workers must be paid for the six minutes a day they spend putting on and taking off special gear and clothing required for their jobs. The decision affirmed a 2013 circuit court ruling that Hormel Corp. owed $195,000 to about 330 current and former employees at its Beloit plant, where it makes products like Hormel Chili and Mary Kitchen Hash.
The opinion is over 90 pages long and the various comments provided by the justices once again confirmed the dysfunction amongst the Wisconsin Supreme Court justices.
The circuit court initially held that Hormel requires its workers to wear the uniforms, which exceed USDA food safety guidelines, and forbids them to wear the uniforms outside the plant. It takes five or six minutes each day to put them on, which adds up to about 24 hours a year of unpaid time, in violation of wage and hours laws.
On appeal directly to the Supreme Court, Hormel argued that the dressing and undressing was such a minimal activity that it was not compensable as work under state law, but clearly this argument did not prevail.
The take away is that Wisconsin employers must closely review their policies and procedures regarding employee clothing, particularly if the employees are dressing or undressing on company time. Employers in other states should also use this opportunity to review their state laws to ensure they are in compliance with all laws on this subject matter.