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Tyson Donning and Doffing Petition Sent to Supreme Court

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Washington, DCPetitions to the Supreme Court have been filed in the Tyson Foods unpaid wages lawsuit, in which employees claimed they were improperly not paid for time spent donning and doffing protective gear for work. Both sides have submitted arguments to the Supreme Court related to the unpaid wages claim, which employees had previously won.

According to court documents filed in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are current and former Tyson employees at the Iowa pork processing plant either on the slaughter or processing floor. The employees claimed that although they were paid additional time for donning and doffing (“K-Code” time), the pay did not properly compensate them for the amount of time spent in putting on and taking off protective gear or related activities prior to 2010.

As previously reported by LawyersandSettlements (8/25/14), in 2010 Tyson revised its “K-Code” time to allow for 20-22 minutes of paid “K-Code” time per shift for all hourly employees. Before that revision, however, employees were paid for 4-7 “K-Code” minutes.

Employees won their lawsuit and were awarded damages and attorney’s fees, but Tyson appealed that decision. The appeals court upheld the award, finding that Tyson’s own internal study showed that employees were not paid for approximately 29 minutes of work per shift, based on employee “clock in” and “clock out” time. The appeals court also noted that Tyson increased “K-Code” time to 22 minutes without changing job responsibilities, a sign that the company had underestimated how long it took employees to prepare for a shift.

When the judges upheld the award, they noted that the plaintiffs showed “sufficient evidence of undercompensation.” The employees were awarded $2.9 million, which was increased to a final judgment of $5.8 million after liquidated damages.

Tyson appealed to the US Supreme Court and argued in a brief that the class should not have been certified because there were differences in the amount of time employees spent putting on and taking off their protective gear.

The case is Tyson Foods Inc. v. Bouaphakeo et al., case number 14-1146, in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Donning and doffing lawsuits have been filed against various employers alleging employees should be paid for the time they spend putting on and taking off protective gear for their work.

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