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Tyson Foods Must Pay $250K In Labor Suit

Mon, 11/09/2009 - 5:08am

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A federal court has ruled that Tyson Foods Inc. violated federal labor standards for not paying production line employees for the time it takes them to put on and remove protective and sanitary gear.

The company was ordered to pay $250,000 in damages, according to the ruling Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. The U.S. Department of Labor, which originally filed the suit seeking $5.8 million in back wages, made the announcement Thursday.

The jury found the company didn't fairly compensate workers but rejected government claims that Tyson failed to keep accurate records for the time that employees worked. The U.S. Department of Labor said in a statement it first began investigating the situation at the poultry and beef producer in 2000. The government said the company did not pay some 3,000 production line employees at its plant in Blountsville, Ala., for the work time in question from 2000 to the present.

The company, based in Springdale, Ark., said in a statement Thursday it appreciated the decision and will now determine what its next steps will be. The company said the case is part of a continuing debate over what types of activities should be covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

"Rather than litigate, we would rather see the Department of Labor and others work cooperatively with industries such as ours to bring some clarity and consistency to this complex issue," Tyson said in a statement.

The Labor Department said the case now goes into mediation to determine whether a corporate-wide injunction should be implemented across all of Tyson's facilities, possibly meaning even more payments required by Tyson.

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