The U.S. Department of Labor on June 3 announced that Tyson Foods Inc. has agreed to a nationwide injunction that will require the company to pay its poultry processing workers for all hours that they work. In addition, Tyson Foods has agreed to pay almost 3,000 workers at its Blountsville, Ala., facility $500,000 in overtime back wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“No employee should be made to work without compensation,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “I am pleased that, as result of this agreement, poultry processing employees at Tyson Foods plants will receive the full wages that they rightfully earn and deserve.”
Today’s agreement is a critical step in the department’s longstanding efforts to require that employers in the meat and poultry industries pay employees for all hours worked. Following the department’s consent judgment with Pilgrim’s Pride in January 2010, the judgment against Tyson Foods will mean that the nation’s two largest poultry processors now are subject to judicially-enforceable requirements that they pay these employees in compliance with the FLSA.
The agreement, filed by the department’s Office of the Solicitor in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham and subject to approval by the court, ensures that, for the first time, Tyson poultry processing workers will be paid for all the time they spend at the plant putting on and taking off protective and sanitary items, a process known as donning and doffing, as well as for the time they spend washing and sanitizing themselves and the items. The workers also must be compensated for all time they spend walking and waiting that occurs during the workday. Tyson Foods must keep accurate records of this time.
The Labor Department’s district court complaint was filed in May 2002, following an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division at the company’s Blountsville plant. As part of the consent judgment resolving the case, workers at the Blountsville plant will receive $500,000 in overtime back wages for work they performed dating back to 2000. While the complaint’s back wage claim was limited to violations at Blountsville, the department obtained an injunction that will govern the pay practices for poultry processing employees at all of the company’s union and non-union plants.
The agreement will become fully effective at the company’s non-union plants no later than Dec. 1, 2012. In the interim, the company has agreed to pay workers at its non-union plants for additional minutes of non-production time daily, in addition to each worker’s production time. At union plants, the agreement will become fully effective by December 1, 2012, at the request of the applicable unions. Tyson is required by the terms of the agreement immediately to provide a copy of the consent judgment to all applicable unions.
The Labor Department was represented by attorneys from the department’s Office of the Solicitor in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
Information on the FLSA and other federal laws concerning wage and hour issues is available by calling the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd.