Urbana, IL: Workers at the Kraft Foods plants in Champaign, Illinois, contend their employer daily cheats them out of money by requiring them to change into factory clothes, attend a staff meeting and then walk a considerable distance to their workstations before they can clock in for the day.
Attorney Ryan Bradley represents the plant's 1,200 workers and has filed a class-action lawsuit on their behalf against Kraft for violation of two Illinois state labor statutes.
"It is an aggregate thing," says Bradley from the firm of Phebus & Koester. "There is an inclination for companies to defend themselves by saying this is just a little bit of time."
That maybe the way the company sees it, but employees spending time at work for no pay on a daily basis see it differently, according to Bradley.
"You're talking about someone's trying to pay electric bills or make car payments losing perhaps a couple of hundred bucks a month or a year—it starts to add up."
Kraft is the largest food, confectionary and beverage company in the United States, and manufactures 155 different products—everything from Oscar Mayer Hot Dogs to Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Its top 11 brands alone earn $1 billion annually.
The exact amount of time workers are required to spend at the plant without pay will be determined by experts that go into the plant, measure distances and videotape suit-up and briefing activities, and then testify during court proceedings.
Potential class members include all current employees at the Champaign plant as well as anyone who worked at the plant during the last five years.
Although the statute only allows the class action to pertain to the last five years, Bradley believes the practice has being going on much longer.
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"This behavior on the part of employers spans their goods times and their bad times," says Bradley. "The desire and pressure to maximize their profits means they strive to pay their employees the minimum amount to do the maximum amount of work."
"These employees are merely trying to protect their rights and make Kraft do what it is obliged to do under state law," he adds.
Ryan Bradley is an associate with the firm of Phebus & Koester in Urbana, Illinois. He holds a JD from the Vermont Law School and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Loyola College in Maryland. His practice is concentrated on wage and hour law, as well as personal injury, medical negligence, product liability and wrongful death suits.
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