CMS had been headed to trial over the federal lawsuit, but under the settlement approved July 19 in US District Court in Omaha, it agreed to pay eligible current and former workers $4 to $6 for each week they were denied the extra pay since April 2006. The company also agreed to pay $2,000 each to two former workers who filed lawsuits in the case that were later joined, and nearly $822,000 to the workers' attorneys.
The court filing did not specify the full amount of the settlement.
Those who were in jobs that required the most equipment, such as mesh work clothes, could get $6 a week, while those who donned the minimum equipment could get $4, according to the settlement. Those who didn't need extra equipment to perform their jobs won't get a payment.
Last year, former Cargill workers sued, saying hourly employees spend a substantial amount of time each day on work duties without getting paid. Those duties include dressing in protective gear, sanitizing tools, and walking to and from work stations.
The plaintiffs said in their filings that the federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires the company to pay for preparation and cleanup time. Cargill Meat Solutions, a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based Cargill, had denied any wrongdoing in court filings and said the union contract specifically excluded that time from paid time.
"We are pleased this has concluded and can now move forward with our excellent and fully engaged Schuyler, Neb., beef plant production team delivering outstanding products to meet our customers' expectations," a company spokesman informed MEATPOULTRY.com via email.
Tyson Foods Inc. won a similar court battle over wages at its meatpacking plant in Lexington in May. Tyson hadn't been underpaying workers, a federal judge ruled. Two other wage lawsuits are pending against Tyson over its plants in Dakota City and Madison. Trials are set for January.
Meanwhile, a March trial has also been scheduled in a class-action lawsuit over wages at a Farmland Foods plant in Crete.