Supreme Court Argument Held in Tyson Foods Lawsuit

Supreme Court Argument Held in Tyson Foods Lawsuit

WASHINGTON D.C. — In November, parties gave their oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in a suit brought by employees of Tyson Foods against their employer, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This suit is a class action that includes almost 3,000 employees at Tyson Foods’ slaughterhouse in Iowa. The Court’s decision in this case may have lasting repercussions for when class claims may be brought under FLSA.

Establishing the Appropriate Class Members

In their suit, the Tyson’s employees allege that the company unlawfully failed to pay for the time required to put on and take off sanitary and protective gear. During the trial in federal district court, expert testimony was provided by the plaintiffs that proposed a damage calculation based on the average time employees spent putting on and taking off the gear in question and returning to their work stations. The jury awarded merely half of the damages requested by the employees.

On appeal, Tyson’s made several arguments. First, Tyson’s claimed that the use of the average time for putting on taking off protective gear was an inappropriate way to establish a class of employees in different position. Second, Tyson’s argued that the jury provided no guidance regarding which employees should receive damages and how much damages they should, the employees who were not harmed would receive damages.

In response, the employees stated that the jobs covered by the settlement were similar, and the average merely provided a reasonable inference on how the damage award should be calculated. Additionally, they argued that the trial court is fully able to determine how the award should be fairly distributed among the class members.

Record-Keeping Implications

It has been previously ruled by the Supreme Court that, if an employer fails to keep accurate time records, an employee has a low burden of proof to satisfy in a suit regarding compensable time. Specifically, in instances where an employer failed to keep accurate time records, an employee is only required to produce evidence sufficient to make a reasonable inference regarding the time he or she worked, including the average time spent putting on and taking off protective gear.

Under FLSA, employers are required to maintain accurate records regarding the hours worked and wages earned for each employee. This includes accurate records on the time and day that an employee’s workweek begins and the hours worked each day. Employers may use any timekeeping method they choose as long as those records are complete and accurate. Employers may allow supervisors to keep track of their employees’ work hours, have employees track their own time, or both. Under FLSA, however, employers have the ultimate responsibility to maintain these records, not employees.

Employers cannot deprive employees of overtime or minimum wage because of faulty record-keeping. You should call (855) 754-2795 or complete the Free Unpaid Overtime Case Review form on the top right of this page if you feel that you have a valid wage claim for unpaid wages due to an employer’s failure to keep accurate records. Our top-rated team of wage lawyers will evaluate your situation to determine your best course of action. We will also determine if it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit against your employer. There are strict time limitations for filing, so it is important that you call our experienced attorneys today.

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