Employment Wage Overtime Lawsuit
Dole Food Faces Class Action for Wage Violations
On December 26, workers of California-based Dole Food Company filed a wage violation class action lawsuit accusing the employer of not paying for the substantial time they had to spend in putting on the mandatory sanitary clothing. Dole’s food safety policies make it mandatory for workers to wear lab coats, gloves, and hairnets and sanitize hands and shoes before reaching their workstations. The lawsuit filed in the 1s claimed that the practices of the food processing multinational are contrary to California law. According to him, workers have to dress on and off the elaborate sanitary suits during lunch and rest break. However, the company considers it a part of worker’s break time, which is unfair and violation of state labor laws granting lunch and rest convenience for industrial workers, he alleges.
The wage class action lawsuit demands that Dole should pay employees for the time they need to sanitize hands and put on elaborate protective gears. It argues that a worker is required to do so because of Dole’s standard safety practices that ultimately help the food multinational win commercial benefits and consumers, and the time spent by workers contributes to this success.
Dole Food Company, a $7 billion multinational food processor, has 36,000 full-time and 23,000 part-time workers worldwide. It has been subject to many lawsuits for violations of labor laws and standard workplace security practices in the past. In February 2009, the court ordered Dole to pay $2.5 million to Nicaraguan workers who claimed to become sterile following their exposure to banned pesticides at its banana plantations. The movie “Bananas!” by Swedish film maker Fredrik Gertten was based on the plight of thee workers employed by Dole.
The company is named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed over the death of workers in paramilitary violence in Columbia. As many as 3,000 Filipino workers have also sued the food giant in the past for pesticide exposure. In September 2012, the company settled five US and 33 Nicaraguan lawsuits filed over agriculture chemical exposure, which could run into billions.
Wage Violation Lawsuits: The Rising Trend and Examples
Known as “donning and doffing” in popular circles and wage and hour lawsuits in legal circles, wage violation lawsuits are increasing in the United States. In 2012, the Supreme Court accepted donning and doffing rules as part of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, keystone or labor right in the country, while ordering a Delaware poultry processor to pay workers for 20.013 minutes they spend every day in putting on and off protective wear at the plant. The court added that such practices must be compensated when found essential to the job.
According to CNNMoney, wage and hour lawsuits increased by 400 times in the last one decade. More than 7,000 litigations were filed alone in 2011. The defendants include some well-known names in corporate America, including IBM, Wal-Mart, restaurant chain Hooters, Fremantle Media, Starbucks, Oracle, Taco Bell, and Bank of America. These lawsuits claimed that workers were not paid for the full hours they worked. A survey by Bloomberg highlights that the corporate sector is paying $1 billion a year to settle wage and hour lawsuits.
A wage and hour lawsuit filed against Walmart in October 2012 claims that temporary employees were forced to report early, leave late, and even work during the lunch break without any extra pay. Harper’s Bazaar and Fox Searchlight Pictures are facing lawsuits for failing to pay minimum and overtime wages to interns. A lawsuit filed in Indiana by AT&T employees claims that they are forced to have a restricted lunch break that does not allow resting after having their meals.
In June 2012, the Denver City Council agreed to pay $437,500 to settle a donning and doffing lawsuit filed by police in 2007. Butterball poultry processing company paid $4.25 million in July 2012 to settle a donning and doffing lawsuit class action representing workers at its Huntsville and Ozark plants.
Townsends Wage Violation Lawsuit
In December 2009, workers from Townsends' poultry processing plants in North Carolina filed a class action, alleging nonpayment of wages for donning and doffing protective suits and sanitizing equipment. The 118-year-old company, known for supplying value-added chicken worldwide, faced a similar lawsuit in an Arkansas court in 2008. According to the wage and hour lawsuit, it takes at least 30 minutes for each worker to put on protective gears and put them off at the end of the shift every day.
Tyson Wage Violation Lawsuit
In September 2012, Springdale-based Tyson Foods paid $32 million to settle a wage and hour lawsuit filed 12 years ago over nonpayment for the time workers spent on donning and doffing protective clothing. The class action covered 17,000 present and past employees at its 41 plants across the United States. The class action filed in 1999 was the first of its kind and inspired many such litigations in the coming years, forcing poultry processing businesses to comply with US wage and hour laws. It also led to a nationwide survey that accused 60 percent of such companies of violating laws.
Mountaire Wage Violation Lawsuit
Delaware-based Mountaire Farms was asked by the court in June 2011 to pay about $2,250 in additional compensation to each worker for the time they took for donning and doffing protective gears in the last six years. The wage and hour lawsuit filed in January 2006 claimed that each employee was denied wage worth 17 minutes spent each day on donning and doffing protective suits.