Supreme Court Upholds ‘Donning/Doffing’ Lawsuit

Posted March 25, 2016 at 10:22 am

The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld a challenge by employees at Tyson Foods who said they weren’t fairly compensated for time spent putting on and taking off protective workwear in the plant, according to news reports.

A significant twist in the case was that the court accepted the use of “representative and statistical evidence” in this class-action lawsuit, whereas it rejected a similar strategy in another case involving employees suing Wal-Mart.

The difference in the Tyson Food v. Bouaphakeo (No. 14-1146), was that experts for the defendants estimated the time required by specific groups of employees in a single plant to don and doff workwear.  By contrast, in Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, the court found that the experience of the class members, who numbered 1.6 million employees, was sufficiently varied that representative evidence didn’t provide a reliable indicator of the experience of the employees as a whole.

In the Tyson case, a jury had awarded a class of 3,344 employees based in a plant in Storm Lake, IA, $2.9 million. The evidence included 744 videotaped observations conducted by Dr. Kenneth Mericle that analyzed how long it took employees to complete their donning and doffing of workwear.  

Tyson had argued that the variation in time it took employees to put on or take off uniforms made the lawsuit too “speculative for the classwide recovery.” Click here for details.