Under a consent agreement with the Labor Department estimated as worth $10 million, Perdue Farms, Inc. has agreed to change its pay practices and to compensate 25,000 current and former employees for time spent putting on and taking off personal protective equipment and sanitizing their work area.

It's common practice in the poultry industry to not pay workers for time spent putting on gear and cleaning up, according to Labor Department officials.

Tyson Foods, Inc., the nation's largest poultry producer, has been charged by the department with violating the Fair Labor Standards Act by requiring workers to be dressed in protective gear when the production line starts running and not paying them for time spent changing clothes or cleaning up at the end of the day.

Most poultry workers are immigrants who are paid less than $7 an hour, the department reported. There are 174 poultry processing plants across the country employing about 250,000 workers.

"This is a major victory for the workers, who will now get paid what they are entitled to and be compensated for health and safety precautions at their plants," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.