Tyson Foods Inc., one of the nation's largest poultry producers, has been found in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) at its Blountsville, Ala., facility, according to a Labor Department press release. The jury's verdict in federal court in Birmingham resulted from a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor against the company.
"We are very pleased that the jury in Birmingham has vindicated our position that employers must pay their workers for the time that they are required to work," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "This is a victory for workers, and the result of years of dedicated efforts to protecting the rights of working Americans on the part of attorneys, investigators and others within the Labor Department."
"The addition of 250 new wage and hour field investigators â€” a staff increase of more than a third â€” along with additional new staff in the department's Office of the Solicitor, makes clear our commitment to ensuring compliance with federal labor laws for the benefit of America's working families," added Secretary Solis.
The Department of Labor's lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. The federal department alleged that Tyson Foods did not keep accurate records and failed to pay production line employees for the time they spend donning and doffing safety and sanitary gear, and performing other related work activities. The violations cover the period from the year 2000 to the present and affect approximately 3,000 current and former workers at the plant.
The initial investigation began in April 2000 as part of the department's Wage and Hour Division's poultry enforcement initiative. The Labor Department filed the district court complaint in May 2002 following the company's failure to comply with the law and to pay back wages. The first jury trial, which began in February 2009, ended in a mistrial. The Labor Department chose to pursue a second trial in August 2009 to secure a ruling that Tyson was failing to compensate its employees lawfully.
The Labor Department was represented by attorneys from the agency's Office of the Solicitor in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. The decision is a critical achievement in the department's longstanding efforts to ensure that employers in the meat and poultry industries pay employees for all time worked.
Information on the FLSA and other federal laws concerning wage and hour issues is available by calling the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or on the Internet at http://www.wagehour.dol.gov.