Supreme Court may favor workers in Tyson class action case

| Nov 18, 2015 | Wage And Hour Laws |

California workers may sympathize with employees at a Tyson Foods plant in Iowa who brought a class-action suit against the company for over unpaid overtime. The complaint arose in connection with unpaid time for donning and doffing attire and equipment used for safety and sanitary purposes on the job. A judgment of $5.8 million was assessed against the company at a lower court, and an appellate court agreed that this was appropriate. However, the company appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, based on its concern that averaging was inappropriate for computing unpaid wages.

In addressing the company’s complaint, several justices of the nation’s highest court pointed out that a 70-year precedent existed in support of the workers. This provides that reasonable averages can be used if poor records were kept. Justice Kagan noted that the issue was a matter of wage and hour law rather that a concern about class-action activity. Those who advocate for workers’ rights were initially concerned that this case might result in a weakening of the ability to file class-action lawsuits. However, the Supreme Court focused on violations of labor laws.

Employers are obligated by the Fair Labor Standards Act to abide by governmental standards related to minimum wages, overtime and keeping records, and a dispute over work-related activities such as donning and doffing specialty gear might be a point of contention for those who require extended amounts of time for these activities due to the type of equipment in question.

An employee who is expected to wear a uniform for work would typically be expected to arrive on the job ready to work. However, equipment located only at the workplace would require that an individual arrive prior to the start of a shift to suit up. If a question of this activity as work time or personal time arises, a lawyer might help in clarifying the rules according to the FLSA.


Read Our White Paper:

FindLaw Network