Tyson Wage Class Action Headed to Washington

CORRECTION – The original version of this article incorrectly reported on an unsuccessful class action against Tyson in Iowa. The Eighth Circuit ruled on two Tyson class actions on the same day, but the Supreme Court took up only the case against Tyson that had been successful. This article has been updated to reflect the correct case.

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Tyson persuaded the Supreme Court on Monday to hear its challenge of a class action that hooked it for $2.9 million in damages.
     Peg Bouaphakeo brought the class action here after Tyson changed its policy in 2007 for compensating at its pork-processing plant in Storm Lake, Iowa.
     For the nine yeas prior, Tyson had been paying all employees an additional four minutes a day of so-called K-code time – the employer’s estimate of how long it took employees to don and doff their gear to slaughter, trim and prepare hogs for shipment.
     The 2007 change meant that only certain employees would earn K-time, however, while the rest would collect only “gang-time” wages, meaning the time workers spent are at their stations when the production line was moving.
     Though the trial court in Sioux City acknowledged the different kinds of protective gear Tyson’s workers wore, it found that the gang-time compensation scheme meant “far more factual similarities than dissimilarities,” and it certified two classes.
     A collective action the court certified involved 444 employees, and 3,344 members joined the class that did not require filing a written consent form.
     The jury ultimately slapped Tyson for $2.9 million, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed last year.
     Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue any comment in taking up the case Monday.

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