SCOTUS Considers "On the Clock"

(NBC News) If you wear a uniform at work a case before the Supreme Court could impact when you punch in your time card.

A group of steel workers want to be paid for for the time they spend putting on and taking off protective clothing each day, but the Fair Labor Standards Act doesn't require employers to pay employees for time spent "changing clothes".

Justices are now being asked define exactly what "changing clothes" means.

The 800 steel workers who brought the suit are arguing their uniform isn't just clothing.

They say the jackets, pants and head coverings are more like "gear" meant for protection and they want to be compensated for the time it takes getting in and out of it.

"It's a significant amount of time and money, and we're not talking about hedge fund managers here," says plaintiff attorney Eric Schnapper.

Some justices had doubts.

In Monday's arguments Justice Ruth Ginsberg said, "That looks like clothes to me", and Justice Sonia Sotomayor added "If it looks like clothes, it is clothes".

Attorneys for U.S. Steel argue the term "clothes" was intended to include most anything industrial employees are required to wear, but Justices felt that definition may go too far.

If the Justices side with the steel workers they will be entitled to back pay not just for the time they spend changing clothes, but also for the time spent traveling from the company locker to their work stations.

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