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Donning and Doffing Lawsuit Reaches Proposed Settlement

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Wichita, KSAn unpaid wages lawsuit alleging employees were not paid for time spent in required duties has reached a proposed settlement and now awaits approval from the courts. The unpaid wages claim, filed against National Beef, represents approximately 480 employees who could receive money for what they allege was off-the-clock work.

According to MeatPoultry.com (11/24/14), the lawsuit alleged employees were not paid for removing protective gear, waiting to clean equipment or cleaning the equipment. National Beef will reportedly pay around $350,000 to resolve claims made in the lawsuit, and pay attorneys’ fees and court fees. The company has not admitted to any wrongdoing.

The lawsuit (Barbosa and Gaytan v. National Beef Packing Company, LLP case number 12-2311-KHV) argued that employees were required to swipe ID badges to get in and out of the security gate and again to clock in and out of their shifts.

“Despite the use of badges to clock in and out of shifts, defendant does not use that system to record compensable wages,” the lawsuit alleged. “Instead, defendant uses a ‘gang time’ system which pays hourly production employees only for the time that they work on a running production line.” In other words, employees were not paid for time spent on-site but not on the production line, or for time spent on the production line when the production line was not moving. The lawsuit did note that some employees are paid “donning and doffing” pay of up to nine minutes.

Among the activities not paid, according to the lawsuit, were time spent waiting to be issued equipment, sanitizing equipment, doffing protective gear for lunch breaks, sanitizing equipment during lunch breaks and processing meat after the line has stopped running.

“Gang time” is reportedly a widely used industry method of paying employees only for time on the production line, but not paying - or paying less than should be paid - for time spent in other important duties, such as putting on and taking off protective gear. Other employers, such as call center employers, may use a similar scheme - though not called “gang time” wherein employees are only paid for time spent on the computer, but not paid for time spent logging on to and off of computer systems, responding to e-mails and opening computer programs. In such pay models, employees are not compensated for activities that must be carried out for them to perform their job duties.

That time can add up to hours of unpaid wages and, in the case of full-time employees, could mean unpaid overtime wages.

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