A Very Helpful “Donning and Doffing” Opinion May 25th, 2009

I recently reread Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller’s terrific opinion in Burks v. Equity Group-Eufaula Division, 571 F. Supp. 2d 1235 (M.D. Ala.). This decision is a bonanza for poultry workers and should greatly assist workers’ rights lawyers as we continue the fight for fair wages in the poultry industry. Here is a brief summary (in order of appearance) of the various holdings in Burks: (1) the exemptions under FLSA Section 3(o) and the Portal-to-Portal Act do not apply to work done during the continuous workday; (2) FLSA Section 3(o) does not apply to the washing of work items; (3) hand cleaning is “integral and indispensable” to poultry processing and, thus, triggers the compensable workday; (4) the uncompensated work typically at issue in poultry “donning and doffing” cases is not de minimis; (5) neither FLSA Section 3(o) nor the Portal-to-Portal Act applies to work performed during meal breaks; (6) work performed during any portion of an unpaid meal break potentially can expose the employer to liability for the entire meal break; and (7) the scheduling of two unpaid meal breaks during a single shift may violate the FLSA and render one of the breaks compensable.

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