Today I received a call from a union official at a local packing plant asking me if the company could force injured employees to apply ice and heat to their injuries during break.
I answered it depends on whether the company or the employee receives the predominant benefit of the icing. The predominant benefit analysis is the framework for deciding “donning and doffing cases.” In donning and doffing cases, the issue is whether taking off and putting on safety equipment before and after a shift as well as during meal and break times should be paid. I think the same analysis could work for “icing and heating.” One argument for icing and heating time not being compensable is that the pain relief predominately benefits the employee. However, employers argued in the donning and doffing cases that wearing safety gear benefits employees, but courts have still found the predominate benefit question to be one answerable by a jury (subscription required).
The main issue in this case is whether time spent putting on and taking off protective gear at the beginning and end of break and meal times benefited Tyson or the workers. If the jury determines the time spent donning and doffing mainly benefits Tyson, the employees will win. Tyson’s argument is that the time spent donning and doffing gear was during break time so the time primarily benefited the employee. Continue reading →