Poultry Industry Suffers Another Defeat in FLSA Overtime Lawsuit

Yet another federal district court has rejected the poultry industry’s attempt to avoid a jury trial addressing the practice of refusing to pay workers for activities engaged in before the workers arrive at the production line. On August 7, 2008, United States District Court in the Middle District of Alabama issued its decision in Burks v. Equity Group-Eufaula Division, LLC, 2:06-cv-1081-MEF. The district court rejected the company’s argument that time workers spend sanitizing safety and sanitary gear at the beginning of the workday is compensable. The court rejected the company’s argument that the time was exempt under FLSA Section 3(o), which exempts from FLSA coverage time spent “changing clothes or washing at the beginning or end of each workday which was excluded from measured working time during the week involved by the express terms of or by custom or practice under a bona fide collective-bargaining agreement applicable to the particular employee.” 29 U.S.C. 201(o). As explained by the court, Section 3(o)’s “washing” provision only applies to washing the body. In addition, the court explained that time spent sanitizing gear is not covered by the Portal to Portal Act, which applies to “activities which are preliminary to or postliminary to” the workers’ “principal activities.” 29 U.S.C. 254(a)(2). The court explained that, because sanitizing gear is “integral and indispensable” to the principal activities of poultry workers, such activities are neither preliminary nor postliminary.
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