Tyson Foods has settled with workers to the tune of $32 million, ending a 12-year federal lawsuit, according to the Wall Street Journal. This lawsuit was centered on the claim by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) that Tyson employees should be compensated for time spent putting on and taking off safety gear. The settlement will pay 17,000 workers at 41 plants in 12 states at an average of around $1,000 each, in addition to attorneys’ fees up to $14.5 million. The plants named in the lawsuit are located in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
Just last year, Tyson Foods settled a dispute with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) over the compensation of workers for shift preparation. Under this agreement, certain employees are now paid extra for the time it takes to prepare and end their shifts. This equates to an extra 8 to 12 minutes of pay for an estimated 38,000 employees. The president of the UFCW, Joe Hansen, commented, "Every American deserves to get paid for the work they do. We're changing the way meatpackers do business and making them pay thousands of workers correctly."
The settlement was approved by a federal judge in Columbus, Georgia, but Tyson Foods is located in Springdale, Arkansas. Tyson is the second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork in the world, and the largest exporter from the United States. Tyson analysts predict that the company will exceed sales of $32 billion in fiscal year 2011. The company commands a global workforce of around 117,000 people.
According to federal labor laws, all time spent working must be compensated. This can include seemingly minor tasks such as taking short breaks (those lasting less than 20 minutes), participating in security checks, roll calls or pre-shift meetings, booting up or shutting down computers, or performing tasks to prepare for the day, such as cleaning equipment or donning safety equipment. If you suspect you have not been fully compensated for your work, you may be owed damages for unpaid wages or overtime. Fill out the free evaluation form on the right so an experienced overtime attorney can help determine if you are eligible to seek back pay, attorneys’ fees, liquidated damages, and punitive damages.