Supreme Court upholds class action suit

Some workers in Wisconsin may have heard about a class action suit that employees of Tyson Foods are bringing against the meatpacking company. On Nov. 10, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding Iowa workers from a pork-processing plant who are suing for unpaid overtime.

The case landed in the Supreme Court after two lower courts agreed on a $5.8 million judgment for the workers. However, Tyson was not just seeking to get that ruling overturned. The company was also trying to change the laws around class action suits to make suing more difficult for workers. However, Supreme Court judges who questioned Tyson’s attorney suggested that his argument was not convincing.

The unpaid overtime claim hinged on the time workers spent donning and removing protective equipment for their jobs. Because Tyson does not keep good records of how much time this takes and the times vary according to what kind of jobs the workers do, the court agreed to use a statistical average. Tyson objected to this method of calculating overtime, but there is a 1946 U.S. Supreme Court precedent that allows it.

An employee who feels they have been treated unfairly due to discrimination, denial of overtime or some other issue may first wish to attempt to resolve the situation through company channels. If this is not possible, the employee may wish to speak with an employment law attorney. People who are facing poor treatment in the workplace may wish to document as much of the behavior as possible. If they belong to a protected class and are facing discrimination due to factors such as gender, race, religion or disability, initiating a claim with the EEOC or applicable state agency may be advisable. However, even for those who are not part of a protected class, such as situations dealing with wage claims, there may be legal options available that the attorney can outline.

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