Curley's workers file federal donning-doffing lawsuit

by Erica Shaffer
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Five workers for Curley's Foods have filed a federal lawsuit against the company.
John Morrell & Co. was named in the Curley's Foods lawsuit.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Five women employed at a Curley’s Foods specialty meat plant in Sioux City filed a lawsuit claiming the company failed to pay them and other workers for time spent putting on and removing protective gear before and after their shifts and their 30-minute meal breaks.

Named in the complaint are John Morrell & Co. — doing business as Curley’s Foods — and Smithfield Foods Inc., the parent company. Curley’s is a meat processor specializing in premium smoked and cooked meat and poultry. Plaintiffs in the case are Maria Limon, Ida Moreno, Claudia Sanchez, Yolanda Joaquin and Loyda Aguilar.

The case is similar to one argued before the US Supreme Court in November 2015. In Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo, current and former line workers at Tyson’s Storm Lake, Iowa, processing plant claimed they were not fully paid for time spent donning and doffing protective gear before and after their shifts prior to 2010. The employees sued the company and won their case in US District Court. But Tyson appealed the judgment to the Eighth Circuit, which later upheld the lower court’s ruling. Tyson later argued in its petition to the Supreme Court that the Eighth Circuit wrongly classified the lawsuit as a class action.

With limited exception, employers must pay employees for time spent “donning” and “doffing” (putting on and taking off) protective gear. The meat and poultry industry is particularly vulnerable to donning and doffing lawsuits, and many companies have been forced to respond to class action claims, often resulting in significant liability. For more information on donning-doffing issues, check MEAT+POULTRY’s recent coverage HERE.

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