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Class action wage and hour complaint to be reviewed by top court

Georgia business readers may already be aware that in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to block a sex-discrimination case against Wal-Mart that would have involved an astonishing 1.6 million women. Now, the court will have the opportunity to clarify that ruling after agreeing to hear an appeal by Tyson Foods Inc. regarding a class action wage and hour complaint filed against the company's pork processing plant. Tyson is arguing that the lower courts improperly determined damages for the class.

Approximately 3,000 employees who work on the processing floor (the "fabrication" floor) and the slaughter floor (the "kill" floor) are included in the lawsuit. The workers at the Iowa plant argued that they should be paid for the time it takes them to put on and take off the protective clothing and other gear required to work on these floors. At the trial court level, the amount of time the workers were not paid for was determined through what Tyson described as an inadequate sampling, similar to the one the court rejected in the Wal-Mart case.

In addition, the company says that the trial court improperly included some individuals as part of the class. Those individuals, it is alleged, would not be able to recover any damages if they filed individual cases. When the court reconvenes in the fall, arguments will be heard in this case.

This is not the first wage and hour complaint with which Tyson has been involved. In 2010, it settled a similar dispute with the U.S. Department of Labor. Georgia businesses may be interested in keeping track of this case to see how the court rules regarding the ability of workers to file class action lawsuits about wage and hour disputes and other workplace issues.

Source: northwestgeorgianews.com, "Justices to review Tyson Foods appeal over class-action suit", June 8, 2015

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