OMAHA, Neb. – A US District Court ordered Tyson Foods Inc. to pay $5 million in a donning-doffing class action lawsuit filed by workers at the company's Dakota City, Neb., beef processing plant. The lawsuit was filed in January 2008.
Current and former workers will receive $3.3 million under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Punitive damages are not allowed in Nebraska, so the state will receive the remainder of the proceeds.
In a statement, Tyson Foods spokesman Gary Mickelson said the company would appeal the court's ruling.
"We appreciate the jury’s time and consideration; however, we disagree with the court’s factual and legal conclusions and will appeal," Mickelson said. "This case is another example of an ongoing nationwide legal debate over what types of activities are compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act and under certain state laws. We value our employees and strive to comply with federal and state wage and hour laws that are not precise in their description of which pre- and post-shift activities are compensated.
"It’s also worth noting that this case involves employees represented by a union that negotiates contracts that cover wage rates and how workers should be paid," he added.
The lawsuit charged production workers were paid only for time spent on the production line. The plaintiffs sought pay for time before and after assembly line work – which includes time spent putting on uniforms and safety gear, sanitizing equipment, sharpening knives and other duties.