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The U.S. Department of Labor on January 29 announced the filing of a consent judgment in a case against Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation – the country’s largest poultry processor – recovering $1,001,438 in overtime back wages for 798 former and current processing workers at the company’s Dallas facility. The company also agreed to pay for time spent by employees "donning and doffing," or putting on and taking off work-related gear in all processing plants nationwide.
"I am committed to ensuring that all workers receive the compensation to which they are entitled under the law," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Poultry processing is physically demanding hard work, and no one should leave at the end of his or her shift without having been paid for all time worked."
This agreement marks another major step in the department's poultry initiative, which is aimed at ensuring that the poultry processing industry pays its workers all wages to which they are entitled.
The agreement was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, El Dorado Division, and settles allegations that Pilgrim's Pride Corporation failed to properly pay overtime back wages as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The law's overtime violations occurred in part because the company failed to pay its employees for all hours worked, including time spent putting on and taking off protective clothing. Additionally, required recordkeeping was not maintained.
"These low-wage workers were not paid for time donning and doffing at the beginning and end of the workday and before and after meals," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division's Southwest Region. The department's legal action followed an investigation by the division.
The agreement stipulates that Pilgrim's Pride will comply with FLSA regulations regarding donning and doffing, and recordkeeping, and also enjoins the entire company from committing future violations.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers must also maintain accurate time and payroll records.