Tyson settles lawsuit with northwest Iowa workers for $5.8M
STORM LAKE, Iowa — Tyson Foods has settled a 10-year-old class-action lawsuit and will disburse nearly $6 million to more than 3,900 current and former employees of a pork plant in northwest Iowa.
Peg Bouaphakeo and other Storm Lake employees sued the Arkansas-based company in 2007 to collect back pay for the time they spent putting on and taking off protective work clothes and equipment before and after their work shifts, the Sioux City Journal reported .
A Sioux City federal jury ruled in favor of the workers in 2011, a decision the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld in 2014. Tyson appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected the company’s request in March 2016 to limit workers’ ability to challenge pay and workplace issues.
After the Supreme Court ruling, the company’s lawyers sought a new trial to address liability and damage issues. U.S. District Judge John Jarvey denied the request, saying the distribution formula would ensure only workers entitled to damages would receive money from the settlement. The company is required by law to keep records of the amount of time employees spent taking off and putting on the protective gear, but Tyson failed to keep such records and invited the problem of determining damages, he said.
Tyson and the workers agreed in the settlement to a process that a third-party administrator will use to disburse the payments.
“We’re pleased this matter is nearing completion and has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties involved,” Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said in an email.
Each worker will receive about $1,700, but it’s unknown when payments will be distributed, Mickelson said.