The US Supreme Court ruled today that time spent donning and doffing protective gear is time that must be paid. This includes gear such as hard hats, work boots, hairnets, gloves and earplugs.
The case before the court involved Tyson Foods Inc. and workers at a pork processing facility in Storm Lake, Iowa. These workers were not compensated for time spent donning and doffing required gear, nor were they paid for time spent walking to their stations. The workers obtained a $5.8 million judgment, which Tyson Foods appealed to the highest court in the land.
This ruling sets a new standard for class certifications. In the past, the US Supreme Court has arguably set standards that were more employer-friendly. Tyson argued that the class should not have been certified as the time was based on ‘extrapolation and averaging’. In its ruling, the Court allowed certification even though the time for donning, doffing and walking varied among class members.
The case was originally heard by a federal jury in Iowa in 2011. This jury found that the time spent donning and doffing protective equipment was an indispensable part of their work. Workers were awarded $2.9 million, plus liquidated damages of $2.9 million. The Eighth Circuit Appellate court upheld the judgment.
The US Supreme Court decision in this case recognizes that workers can share a substantive harm that justifies class certification, even if the specific harm must be extrapolated and averaged. This is a welcome judgment that rightly enables workers to join together in a class action. We applaud the court’s decision.
Read more about this case:
Wall Street Journal – “Supreme Court Upholds Employee Class Action Against Tyson Foods”
Bloomberg Business – “Tyson Loses as High Court Upholds $5.8 Million Worker Award”