Workers at meat-processing plants must be paid for the time they spend walking between their work stations and the locker rooms where they don and doff protective gear, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.UFCW President Joe Hansen said that he appreciated the Court's recognition "that employers must pay workers for time spent obtaining required safety equipment and reporting to their work location in the plant"
The justices, interpreting a federal wage law, today unanimously ruled against two companies, including Tyson Foods Inc., the world's largest meat processor. The court also said workers must be paid for some of the time spent waiting at stations to receive and return equipment.
Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the court, said that donning and doffing gear were "integral and indispensable'' parts of the job and that the workday begins once workers start putting on their equipment.
For far too long, employers have cheated workers out of their full paycheck by refusing to pay them for the time it takes to pick up their required safety equipment such as chain mail gloves, hair nets, aprons and heavy boots. Meat industry giants like Tyson Foods, which owns IBP, have long insisted that workers paid time does not include as much as thirty to forty minutes per day spent collecting and putting on their gear and walking to their station on the production line.In a statement after the Court's ruling, Tyson said that they "appreciate the court's clarification of the law." I'm assuming that Tyson's "approximately 114,000 Team Members employed at more than 300 facilities and offices in the United States and around the world" appreciate the court's clarification as well.
Today, the Supreme Court justices unanimously agreed that workers deserve to be paid for that time. In reality, the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had to rule on such a case speaks volumes about the greed and arrogance of employers in this country. It wasn’t enough to cheat workers out of their wages, the meat packing industry fought for the right to continue its rip-off all the way to the highest court.