Processing Magazine

Tyson to Pay Workers for Time Wearing Protective Gear

June 8, 2010
Tyson Foods Inc. settled a decade-long dispute with the Labor Department by agreeing to pay workers at poultry plants for time they spend putting on and taking off protective clothing, according to the Associated Press. Government officials hope the settlement with Tyson — and a similar agreement reached earlier this year with poultry processor Pilgrim''s Pride Corp. — will set the standard for smaller processors nationwide. Businesses and labor advocates have wrangled for years over whether workers must be paid for tasks such as donning and doffing sanitary gear before and after their shifts, walking to a work site, or waiting around time before the first work activity begins. The Supreme Court, in a separate case, ruled in 2005 that such activities should be compensated, but many companies, including Tyson, said the full scope of the court''s decision was not clear. In a consent decree filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Ala., Tyson agreed to pay certain poultry workers for time changing into work clothes, washing and sanitizing themselves, as well as time spent waiting between tasks. Under the agreement, the company will pay $500,000 in overtime back wages to nearly 3,000 workers at its Blountsville, Ala., plant.