Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Employment Law
  • Date Filed: March 22, 2016
  • Case #: 14-1146
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. ROBERTS, C. J., filed a concurring opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined as to Part II. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

Employees seeking unpaid overtime for time donning and doffing protective clothing under Iowa state law and federal law can use representative evidence to establish a common injury.

The United States Department of Labor in 1998 required Tyson Foods, petitioner, to pay its employees for donning and doffing of their protective clothing in the petitioner’s processing plant. In 2007, petitioner started only paying certain employees for donning and doffing. Petitioners did not track hours for the employees as the Fair Labor Standards Act requires. Respondent employees brought a class action suit against petitioner under Iowa state law and federal law for unpaid overtime. During trial, respondents used “representative evidence” of a study done in the plant that showed unpaid overtime for some employees. A jury awarded respondents $2.9 million in damages that took into account that not all members of the class were affected. The Eighth Circuit affirmed on the grounds inferences can be made from representative evidence in a class action suit.

Respondents challenged the award on the grounds the class was not properly certified because they did not all suffer the same injury and the use of representative evidence was inappropriate. The Supreme Court used the predominance test to find the class was properly certified. The Court rejected petitioners’ argument that the representative evidence was inappropriate because it was the petitioner’s own record keeping that led to a lack of evidence. REMANDED for further proceedings.

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