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Tyson Foods loses bid to overturn employee suit

Tyson Foods lost its bid before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals this week to overturn the $503,000 in damages awarded to employees who were underpaid for the time they spent donning and doffing required protective work clothing.

What’s more, the plaintiff’s attorneys fees of $3.389 million awarded by the court will also stand, despite Tyson’s effort to get them reduced.

The appeals court ruled Tuesday (Aug. 19) that the evidence supported a finding of undercompensation for every class member. Although Tyson pointed out that the fee award far exceeded the damages award, the appeals court observed that the fee award need not be proportionate to the damages award, and the district court acted within its discretion in setting the amount of attorneys’ fees.

The class action suit originated in 2006 at Tyson Foods’ Finney County, Kan., beef packing plant. Lower courts ruled in favor of some 800 workers in the class action suit.

Tyson appealed the ruling and the fee award with a series of legal challenges, but lost its arguments before the three-judge panel at the appeals court.

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"We’re disappointed by the ruling and disagree with it, especially since most of the award is for attorneys’ fees, not for the plant workers. We will now explore our legal options in this case," Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman told the media following the ruling.

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