A federal judge has conditionally certified a class action which was instituted by a group of production line workers in a turkey processing plant. They claim they are owed compensation for donning and duffing activities as well as other activities that they claim were “working time.” They claim compensation for changing into protective gear (the donning and doffing component) washing their tools and time spent in travel to and waiting at their production lines. The case is entitled McLaurin v. Prestage Foods Inc and was filed in the District of North Carolina.
The plaintiffs claim that the Company paid them only for time that the production lines were supposed to be operating. The plaintiffs estimate 300-1000 members in the class and wanted individuals who worked “on or near” the processing line to be part of the class. The Company is contending that the class definition proposed was too broad because employees working “near” the line were paid differently than those who actually worked on the line.
Naturally, the plaintiffs wanted the broader definition to apply, contending that the true parameters could be worked out “later.” The defendants also contended that there were factual differences in the kinds of protective gear worn by the workers, which hearkens to the individual scrutiny defense, but the judge rejected this contention. The court held that if there was a common policy or practice that applied to all of the workers, the fact that there might be individual differences from worker to worker would not detract from the validity of the class.
There will be probably considerably more discover in this matter. The case will likely be settled sometime in the future, as these working time cases are different than and harder to win than an exemption misclassification issues. In the exemption case, if the employer has strategized correctly and preemptively and is proved correct on the exemption question, the entire class evaporates in a flash. With working time cases, where there lies any modicum of employer compulsion or compulsion by an outside government agency that operates through the employer (e.g. FDA, Health Department) then there likely will be recovery by the plaintiffs and attorneys fees for their counsel.