Tyson Foods pays $5.8M in safety gear dispute
- Tyson Foods will pay $5.8 million in back pay and damages to more than 3,900 workers, resolving a 10-year-old wage and hour lawsuit, reports Arkansas Business.
- Workers in a northwest Iowa pork plant sued the company for failing to pay them for time spent putting on and taking off safety gear like aprons and boots.
- A jury reached that verdict in 2011 but it has been held up by various appeals. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court even weighed in, approving the use of statistical evidence to calculate damages in the case.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires (with a few exceptions) that nonexempt employees be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked and time-and-one-half for hours beyond 40 in a workweek. But employers continue to struggle with identifying compensable working time, as defined by the law.
The time workers spend waiting at checkpoints before and after their shifts has been central to some cases. Others have focused on how much time workers spend donning and doffing uniforms or other required work attire. Employees at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts recently sued the company for failing to pay them for the time they spend getting into and out of uniforms and costumes.
According to the FLSA, when required work clothes are “integral and indispensable” to employees' duties, the time they spend changing is compensable. Otherwise, employers aren't usually required to pay workers for simply changing clothes.
The Supreme Court hasn't offered much clarity on what qualifies as "clothes" and federal appeals court decisions have varied. The U.S. Department of Labor has warned that the question is very fact-specific and that each situation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
For now, employers must decide whether uniforms or other work attire is “integral and indispensable” to workers' duties (perhaps based on the controlling circuit precedent), and track that time as necessary.
- Arkansas Business Tyson Foods Settles Lawsuit with Iowa Workers for $5.8M