Meat processing giant Tyson Foods (“Tyson”) and the U.S. Department of Labor recently entered into an agreement to resolve a lawsuit dating back to 2002 which accused Tyson of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The DOL alleged that Tyson violated the federal labor law by failing to pay production line workers for time spent putting on and taking off compulsory safety gear, referred to as “donning and doffing” in the meat and poultry industry.
The settlement agreement, which is subject to court approval, would require Tyson to pay its employees for time they spent putting on and taking off protective and sanitary items, time they spent washing and sanitizing themselves and items, as well as time spent walking and waiting throughout the day. Tyson would also be required to pay almost 3,000 workers $500,000 in overtime back wages under the FLSA. The nationwide injunction also requires Tyson to gradually modify its timekeeping practices at its plants over the next two and half years. Tyson will temporarily provide 8 or 12 minutes of extra pay per shift to its hourly workers. By December 2012, Tyson has agreed to implement a permanent solution for workers to clock in before they put on safety gear and clock out after they remove the gear. According to our New York Overtime Lawyers, this settlement could impact and benefit many employees in the New York Tri-State Area.
Tyson is one of the largest meat processing companies in the world, selling chicken, beef, and pork in the US and over 90 countries in the world. It is a major supplier to restaurant chains including McDonalds.
This injunction comes just months after the nation’s largest poultry processor, Pilgrim’s Pride, agreed to a $1 million settlement for back wages to 798 former and current processing workers for time spent putting on and taking off work related gear. Taken together, both cases have far reaching implications subjecting the nation’s two largest poultry processors to judicially enforced requirements to pay its employees in compliance with the FLSA. The agreement in Tyson and the $1 million Pilgrim’s Pride settlement are a great victory for workers not getting paid their rightful wages. It also may be a win for workers in other industries, such as home health care aides and waitresses, with unfair timekeeping practices. This could also impact computer service representatives who have to start their computer systems before their shift begins and shut down after their shift ends. Clearly, it is better to for employers to implement timekeeping procedures on its own terms and schedule than to have them judicially enforced. These two cases send a strong message to other industries violating wage and hour laws.
If you are not getting paid for work-related activity, you may be able to collect your back wages. In 2008, more than 197,000 employees collected a total of $140.2 million in minimum and overtime back wages because of federal labor law violations. If you or someone you care about has experienced any type of wage and hour or overtime violation at the workplace, call our New York Overtime Attorneys at (800) 893-9645 to discuss your possible case.
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