Jury Awards $2 Million Verdict to Meat Processing Facility Employees

     Yesterday (9/26/2011), a jury awarded workers from multiple Tyson Foods, Inc. (“Tyson”) meat processing facilities a $2,892,378.70 verdict for uncompensated work performed before and after their shifts.  The Plaintiffs consisted of production and support employees from the Denison, IA and Storm Lake, IA facilities.  The trial took place in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa.

     Plaintiffs claimed that the donning and doffing of hard hats, work boots, hair nets, frocks, aprons, gloves, whites, and ear plugs before or after work constituted compensable “work” as defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  Tyson argued that these were merely “preliminary” and “postliminary” activities, for which it did not have to compensate employees. 

     The jury agreed with the Plaintiffs, and found that the preliminary and postliminary activities were compensable work under the FLSA, and, therefore, Tyson had failed to properly compensate these employees for that work.

Nebraska Meat Processing Plant Employees Receive Settlement from Meat Company

On July 19th, a settlement between Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. and a number of employees from its Schuyler, Neb., beef processing plant was approved by Judge Richard G. Kopf of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska.  The plant employees claimed in their complaint that Cargill had violated overtime and minimum wage requirements set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the Nebraska Wage and Hour Act (“NWHA”), and the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act (“NWPCA”).  Specifically, the employees claimed that they were not paid for required activities performed before shifts, after shifts, and during meal breaks, such as: obtaining tools, equipment and supplies necessary for the performance of their jobs; donning, doffing, and sanitizing various equipment and protective gear; sharpening knives or using “steels” or “mousetraps;” sanitizing knives; and walking between work sites before the first work activity and after the last work activity of the day.  The performance of these activities led to the plant employees working substantial amounts of time “off-the-clock” and without pay.  According to the settlement agreement, the plant employees required to wear the most amount of protective equipment will receive $6.00 per week for a specific period of time already worked, while other employees will receive $4.00 per week. The approved settlement will help to compensate these employees for their previously uncompensated work time.