Two Legal Resolutions Add Up to $7.4 Million for Tyson

By Kevin T. Higgins, Managing Editor

Oct 07, 2016

The first week of October was an expensive one for Tyson Foods Inc., which settled one discrimination lawsuit and saw a federal judge in Iowa reject its request for a new trial.

The Springdale, Ark., processor of animal products agreed Tuesday to pay $1.6 million in back wages, benefits and interest to 5,716 applicants who were rejected for laborer jobs at six facilities between 2007-2010. Tyson also agreed to revise its hiring and training practices and to extend job offers to 474 of those individuals, as positions become available.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs alleged systemic hiring discrimination on the basis of sex, race and ethnicity had occurred at three Texas facilities (Amarillo, Houston and Sherman), two Arkansas plants (Rogers and Russellville) and the Santa Theresa, N.M., operation. Tyson did not admit liability.

Tyson has federal contracts worth more than $15 million to supply chicken, beef and pork products to USDA. The contract compliance office alleged violations of Executive Order 11246.

On Thursday, Tyson’s request for a new trial in a class action suit that was argued last year before the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected. The Supreme Court upheld in March a $5.8 million settlement in favor of more than 400 workers at Tyson’s Storm Lake, Ia., hog slaughter facility. Tyson argued that workers unaffected by its policies would receive compensation, but a federal judge ruled otherwise. The complainant class ultimately included more than 3,000 Tyson employees.

The case, Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo, No. 14-1146, concerned the time workers spend putting on and removing gloves, belly guards and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Better known as the donning and doffing suit, workers complained that they should have been paid time and a half for time spent on personal hygiene and PPE placement and removal, provided they also worked 40 hours that week on the line. To calculate the time spent donning and doffing, videos were filmed of 740 workers to determine the average time spent on those activities.

The high court agreed to hear the case after Tyson challenged the statistical approach used to arrive at an average time for worker preparation. The court ruled 6-2 on March 22 in favor of the workers.