Tyson Foods will pay $32 million to settle the question of whether workers should be paid for the time it takes to put on and take off protective clothes and safety gear at the beginning and end of their shifts.
A federal judge has approved the settlement in the lawsuit that was brought by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
Approximately 16,700 workers will receive $17.5 million in back pay — about $1,000 per worker. Under the settlement, Tyson will also pay $14.5 million in attorneys’ fees.
Last year, Tyson made an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to pay all its workers for the time spent donning, doffing and sanitizing safety gear.
At the time, a statement by Tyson’s VP of human resources showed the company’s sense of resignation regarding the situation: “We decided to resolve this … to avoid the continued expense and disruption of further litigation.”
Under the latest agreement, Tyson will arrange by December 2012 for workers to clock in before dressing for work and to clock out after they remove their work gear and pay certain line employees for an extra 8 to 12 minutes of work per day.
Workers will be paid for the time they spend washing and sanitizing themselves and their PPE. They’ll also be paid for the time they spend walking from where the PPE is stored to their work stations and any waiting that occurs during the donning and doffing process. But they won’t be paid for the time it takes to walk to where the PPE is stored.
The Tyson agreement comes despite the fact that some courts have ruled that workers don’t have to be paid for the time it takes for them to put on and take off certain types of safety gear.
Earlier this year, another poultry company lost its court case on this issue. Kraft also lost a donning/doffing safety gear case and has to pay employees $4 million as a result.