Employees Win Big in Overtime Class Action Against Meat Processor.

The plaintiffs represented a class of employees at a meat-processing facility in Storm Lake, Iowa. They sued the meat processor for not paying wages due under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law (IWPCL), Iowa Code 91A.1 et seq. The workers alleged that they were not paid for time they spent putting on and taking off personal protective equipment and clothing before production, before and after lunch, and at the end of the day. The employees also sought compensation for transporting the clothing items from their lockers to the production floor. Because this time resulting in hours that exceeded 40 hours per week, the plaintiffs sought overtime compensation. The jury entered a verdict in favor of the class, awarding damages (including liquidated damages) in the amount of $5,785,757.40. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed, ruling that the district court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the class because individual issues did not predominate over class issues. The court also found that the plaintiffs showed uncompensated overtime work by applying average donning, doffing, and walking times to employee timesheets. This evidence was "susceptible to the reasonable inference" that the jury's verdict was correct. Judge Beam dissented, arguing that the class should not have been certified and that the state law claims should not have been joined with the federal claims. Bouaphakeo v. Tyson Foods Inc., No. 12-3753, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 16283 (8th Cir. Iowa Aug. 25, 2014).

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