Workers’ compensation issues go well beyond the scope of a workplace injury and the claims process that follows. It also includes the way employers react to the claims of workers and how they treat workers afterwards, as those reactions highlight the tension that often exists between workers and their employers.
A great example of this is the recent culmination of the lawsuit between St. Joseph’s own Tyson Foods and their workers in Iowa.
Tyson Foods Sued for Not Paying Employees for Preparing for Work
The case started back in 2007 when a handful of Tyson Foods employees in their Storm Lake plant in Iowa sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). According to the employees, Tyson Foods required them to put on and take off protective gear at the beginning and the ending of their workday, as well as before and after lunch, but only paid them while they were on the production line. This meant the time donning and doffing their protective gear, as well as the time it took them to get from their workers’ lockers to the production line, was all uncompensated.
This amounted to around 20 minutes every day, and there were 3,900 workers that were affected. Additionally, Tyson Foods had adhered to a policy of not paying workers during this time for years, making it a significant issue of unpaid wages.
Courts All Side With Unpaid Workers
Because the FLSA requires employers to pay their workers for activities that are “integral and indispensable” to their workday, even if they happen “either before or after the regular work shift,” the trial court and the appellate court sided with the workers.
Nevertheless, rather than pay their workers their fair share, Tyson Foods appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, trying to get the case overturned on a procedural issue: The evidence that it took workers around 20 minutes to put on and take off the protective gear only applied directly to the small handful of workers who were timed, not all 3,900 of them.
The Supreme Court ruled against Tyson Foods, in large part because Tyson Foods had never kept records of how long it took workers to get to the production line, as they were obligated to do. Without these records, the representative evidence that the workers had used was the best available.
A Settlement and More Opportunities for Roadblocks
Once the Supreme Court sided with the workers, the case was sent back down to the lower courts for them to figure out exactly how much the workers were owed. Before the court could make a ruling, though, the workers and Tyson Foods settled the case for $5.8 million.
However, just because the case has come to an end does not mean that everything is over. Payments need to be distributed to each worker in the class action, allowing Tyson Foods to continue throwing up obstacles and preventing their workers from getting the wages they have earned.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
The personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at the Smith Law Office strive to help workers get what they deserve after a workplace injury. Contact us online or call our St. Joseph law office at (816) 875-9373 for legal help.