In a nationally significant precedential case described by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit as “an issue that has created considerable interest,” Elliott Greenleaf won a unanimous victory for a class of chicken slaughterhouse workers employed by Tyson Foods, Inc., the world’s largest meat and chicken processing company. De Asencio, et al. v. Tyson Foods, Inc., — F.3d —-, 2007 WL 2505583, C.A.3 (Pa.), 2007 (September 06, 2007], petition for rehearing denied, October 5, 2007.
This case was the first class action to be tried under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) following the Supreme Court’s 2005 precedent in IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez, 126 S.Ct. 514 (2005). Elliott Greenleaf argued that Tyson violates the federal FLSA by not paying hourly workers for the time spent before and after shifts and meal breaks on account of “donning and doffing” and washing protective and sanitary clothing and supplies. Tyson requires they perform these activities at the workplace six (6) times a day before and after production lines start and stop, but only records and pays for the time production lines are moving. Following a several week trial, the district court erroneously instructed the jury that there can be no compensable “work” time unless there are activities involving “exertion,” “difficulty,” “heavy or cumbersomeness” clothing or supplies, or similar factors.
Elliott Greenleaf successfully argued that the trial court misstated the law to the jury by erroneously defining “work”, and that workers who are paid by the hour have a right to be paid for time incurred at the direction and for the benefit of their employer — regardless of “exertion” or levels of “difficulty” or “cumbersomeness.” The Third Circuit also agreed with other Elliott Greenleaf arguments in clarifying the “de minimis” doctrine and other important issues favorable to the workers. Overcoming multiple opposing arguments raised by Tyson Foods, Elliott Greenleaf persuaded the Third Circuit to reverse the district court on this important issue of federal law.