Pilgrim’s Pride Suit

Brent Finnegan -- March 20th, 2008

Pilgrim’s Pride is in the middle of a class action suit by employees who say they are not paid for “time they spent putting on and taking off protective gear.” The suit was reported last week by the AP, the Athens Banner-Herald, and yesterday in the DNR.

From the AP story in the Houston Chronicle:

A federal judge in Arkansas has granted class-action status to a lawsuit filed by workers at Pilgrim’s Pride […] The lawsuit claims workers arrive at their job sites early for their shifts so they can put on protective and sanitary equipment. The workers also use unpaid time to take off the gear, court documents show […] The suit includes workers from plants in [Broadway, Va.]

However, the DNR reported that the suit “includes no one from the Broadway facility.”

[F]our people from the Moorefield plant have filed, including former employee Melissa Hott.

Employees on the production line must put on a smock, apron, boots, gloves, hairnet and earplugs, Hott said.

“We do that before work, at breaks and at the end of work,” Hott said. “Every day.”

The process takes about 30 minutes a day, Yang said. That means each worker would be seeking compensation for about 125 hours a year.

From Athens Banner-Herald:

In a 2006 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found that an employee’s work day starts when he dons the first piece of protective gear, but Pilgrim’s Pride doesn’t pay employees until they are in position on the production line […]

People who work in poultry plants – many of them immigrants – sometimes are leery of complaining for fear they’ll draw retaliation.

“There’s a belief – and this is inappropriate – that if they participate in this lawsuit, they would lose their job. But that’s against the law (for an employer to retaliate),” Miniklal said.

Pilgrim’s Pride representatives won’t comment on pending or threatened litigation, but maintain the company did nothing wrong.

Last week, Pilgrim’s Pride announced that it will close several of its operations, eliminating 1100 jobs, with the possibility of more reductions in the near future.

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