Recently, poultry processing company Koch Foods and a group of its employees agreed to settle a class action lawsuit brought by the employees to recover unpaid wages.
The original lawsuit, filed in November 2010, alleged several violations of federal wage and hour law. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") requires employees to be paid at least the minimum wage for all time spent working. However, according this lawsuit, Koch Foods withheld pay for time employees spent changing in and out of protective clothing and gear, sanitizing themselves and their equipment, traveling to and from the production line, and waiting at the production line for work to begin. As noted elsewhere on this blog, these types of activities are generally considered work activities and, therefore, must be compensated. Moreover, as the employees' attorneys highlighted in their complaint, the U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously held that employees in the meat processing industry must be paid for the time spent walking between where they put on and take off protective gear and where they process meat.
While specific details about the settlement are not yet known, the court will only approve the settlement if it reasonably compensates the employees given the losses they have suffered and the strength of their case. If the settlement is approved, it will serve as another example of employees successfully vindicating their rights through the use of collective action suits to force employers into an out-of-court settlement.
If you believe that your legal rights to fair compensation have been violated, or if you want to better understand your legal rights, you should contact a St. Louis overtime attorney.