A U.S. District Court in Nebraska ordered Tyson Foods to pay $5 million in a donning-doffing class action lawsuit filed by workers at the company's Dakota City, Neb., beef processing plant.
The lawsuit was first filed in January 2008.
The production workers argued in the suit they were paid only for time spent on the production line. The plaintiffs sought pay for time before and after assembly line work. They are required to spend time putting on uniforms and safety gear, sanitizing equipment, sharpening knives and other duties in relation to their jobs at the plant.
"We appreciate the jury’s time and consideration; however, we disagree with the court’s factual and legal conclusions and will appeal. This case is another example of an ongoing nationwide legal debate over what types of activities are compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act and under certain state laws. We value our employees and strive to comply with federal and state wage and hour laws that are not precise in their description of which pre- and post-shift activities are compensated. It’s also worth noting that this case involves employees represented by a union that negotiates contracts that cover wage rates and how workers should be paid," company spokesman Gary Mickelson noted in an e-mail.
Workers past and present at the facility will receive $3.3 million under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Punitive damages are not allowed in Nebraska, so the state will receive the remainder of the proceeds.
Tyson settled a similar suit with workers in Council Bluffs, Iowa last year.