Employees Take Wage-and-Hour Complaints to Court

By on October 7, 2010

Employee suits relating to violations of state and federal wage-and-hour laws have increased in recent years. A recent industry survey conducted by Advisen Ltd., a group that tracks employment-related cases, showed that wage-and-hour suits have surpassed employee discrimination suits, measured by both number of filings and size of settlements.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, companies are obligated to compensate workers for each workday, beginning from the time an employee begins a task and ending when an employee completes his or her final activity of the day. Courts have also determined that employers must pay employees for time spent putting on or taking off protective and safety work clothing, also referred to as “donning and doffing.”

Tyson FLSA

Tyson workers voice their concerns about unfair labor practices.

Arkansas-based food manufacturer Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE: TSN), for example, has been a target of numerous class actions alleging the company failed to pay adequate wages or overtime during the time it took for employees to put on and take off sanitary and protective clothing at its processing facilities.  

On June 3, Tyson settled an action with the Department of Labor, resolving a lawsuit that accused Tyson of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Tyson had agreed to pay factory workers for all hours on the job and $500,000 in previously unpaid overtime wages. Additionally, Tyson said it will enact new timekeeping measures to ensure employees do not get shortchanged in the future.

Other big-name companies have also had to fork huge amount of money to settle similar suits. In May, Walmart (NYSE: WMT) announced it will pay up to $86 million to settle a massive wage-and-hour labor lawsuit and tt was not the first time the giant retailer had to pay up to settle similar claims. In 2008, Walmart paid $633 million to settle 63 federal and state class-action lawsuits, which also alleged various wage-and-hour labor violations.

The rise in lawsuits has also been accompanied by stricter government enforcement of labor wage laws. (See: Rise in Wage Theft Complaints Prompts Stricter Enforcement of Fair Labor Regulations)

Milberg partner Neil Fraser, who handles wage-and-hour litigation, sat down with Class Action Central to talk about wage-and-hour lawsuits and common methods employers use to avoid paying employees full compensation:

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