To that end, an Unpaid Wages lawsuit filed as a class action by a group of employees at Tyson Prepared Foods Inc. (Tyson Foods) was initially lost by the plaintiffs following summary judgment granted to the defendant by the district court. According to court papers related to the case found online here, the district court found that Tyson Foods was not obligated to compensate employees for the kind of off-the-clock work they were claiming - donning and doffing gear - because it was not, in the district court’s view, integral and indispensable to principle work activities.
However, the plaintiffs in the unpaid wages lawsuit noted their principal activity was related to the processing of foods, with the required gear helping to prevent contamination and limiting the employer’s liability in the event of employee injury.
Plaintiffs also held, through their unpaid wages attorney, that the gear was required to allow for a more efficient operation. The plaintiffs appealed.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the district court, noting that according to language contained in the Wisconsin Administration Code, “preparatory and concluding activities” that remain an integral part of a principal activity are, indeed, compensable.
To wit, the off-the-clock work associated with the donning and doffing of clothing and other related gear is compensable due to the fact that the need for the gear, as noted above, is viewed as an indispensable part of the employee’s principle activities, and was not undertaken for the comfort of the employee(s).
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Bottom line, if you require it, you pay for it - or get ready for an Unpaid Wages lawsuit.
The case was Jim Weissman et al, v. Tyson Prepared Foods Inc., Cir. Ct. No. 2010CV1035, Appeal No. 2012AP2196, State of Wisconsin.