In a case entitled Clifton Sandifer et al. v. U.S. Steel Corp. a federal judge has cut out some claims from a work time class action suit, but has allowed one major allegation to remain in the case. That cause of action involves whether the employees should be paid for the time spent in walking from their locker room to their work stations.

The case is in federal court in Indiana; the plaintiffs filed suit in December 2007. Unlike many class actions I have commented upon, this was not a misclassification lawsuit, but rather a work time case. The plaintiffs sought compensation for time spent donning, doffing, walking, showering and laundering personal clothing in excess of the 40-hour workweek. The employees allege that these “work” activities consumed 9-10 hours per week.

The judge threw out the portions of the case pertaining to the donning and doffing of protective clothing, agreeing with US Steel that the compensability of these activities was addressed in the parties’ collective bargaining agreement. The court also found that showering was not required by the company and therefore was a postliminary (i.e. after work) activity for which no compensation was required.

Similarly, even though instructions were provided on how to launder clothing worn under work gear, transporting and laundering clothing was not required by the Company and thus it was not compensable. The judge kept the walking to work station claim, rejecting the company argument that these were non-compensable preliminary and postliminary work. The judge also rejected the de minimis doctrine argument, finding that walking times varied widely throughout the plant.

Judge Miller also did not accept the argument that these claims were preempted under the National Labor Relations Act as they ostensibly involved interpretations of the collective bargaining agreement, rather than statutory violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.