Jury Verdict Upheld in Tyson Wage & Hour Class Action
On August 19, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed a $4 million verdict and attorneys’ fee award in a class and collective action over unpaid wages for pre- and post-shift donning and doffing time at Tyson’s Finney County, Kansas beef processing facility.
Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP represented the Plaintiffs – a class and collective action comprised of production employees seeking to recover unpaid wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Kansas Wage Payment Act.
Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in the District of Kansas on May 15, 2006. Five years of hard-fought litigation culminated in a class and collective action jury trial in March 2011. The jury found in favor of the Plaintiffs and returned a verdict that Tyson failed to compensate Plaintiffs for their time spent during the continuous workday for pre- and post-shift activities. The jury also found that Tyson’s violations of the FLSA were willful, i.e., that Tyson knew or showed reckless disregard for whether its conduct was prohibited by the FLSA. In total, the district court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiffs for $785,894 for Tyson’s pre- and post-shift violations of the FLSA and KWPA. The district court also ruled that Plaintiffs were entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs under the FLSA, and awarded Plaintiffs $3,389,207 in attorneys’ fees and $220,516 in expenses and costs.
On appeal, Tyson challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury’s class-wide liability determination and claimed the district court abused its discretion in awarding attorneys’ fees.
In a unanimous opinion (before Kelly, Ebel and Bacharach, Circuit Judges), the Tenth Circuit rejected Tyson’s arguments, holding that (1) Plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence of under-compensation to support the jury’s class-wide liability verdict; and (2) the district court acted within its discretion in setting the attorneys’ fee award.
George Hanson of Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP applauded the Tenth Circuit’s ruling: “Class cases are not tried very often, and we appreciate that the Tenth Circuit carefully applied the law and upheld the jury’s verdict in favor of our class clients.”