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Tyson Foods Requests New Donning and Doffing Lawsuit

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Sioux City, IOAfter losing round after round of a donning and doffing lawsuit filed against it, Tyson Foods has filed a brief requesting a new lawsuit. Tyson Foods recently lost an appeal of a lower court award of $5.8 million to employees who alleged they were not properly compensated for time spent putting on and taking off safety gear for work.

The lawsuit was initially filed in 2006 by employees at Tyson Foods' Iowa pork processing plant. Those employees argued they were not adequately paid for time spent putting on and taking off safety gear for their shifts. Tyson Foods did pay for those activities, but prior to 2010 only paid for 4 to 7 minutes. The company increased that time to 20 to 22 minutes in 2010.

The employees won their lawsuit in a lower court, but Tyson appealed, arguing that the lawsuit should not have received class action certification because the employees' various situations were too varied to form a class. But the courts found that the employees could be grouped as a class for the purposes of the lawsuit, and upheld the decision.

Tyson finally appealed to the US Supreme Court, but the Court found - in a six to two decision - that the lawsuit was fine as a class action. That decision upheld the award, although the justices remanded the case to a district court to determine whether there were class members who suffered no injury and therefore should not share in the damages.

Now, Tyson has asked the US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa to allow a new trial. According to Sioux City Journal (6/30/16), Tyson argues that a new trial would allow the sides determine which workers are legally entitled to share in the award. Although plaintiffs have proposed various methods of distributing the $5.8 million, Tyson argues that none of those methods ensure only injured workers receive compensation.

A major issue at trial was that Tyson did not keep records of how long it took employees to put on and take off protective clothing. Plaintiffs attempted to address the issue by relying on expert witness testimony.

Approximately 3,300 current and former employees are included in the lawsuit. Lower courts had ruled that employees showed "sufficient evidence of under compensation" to warrant an award.

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


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