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Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo

Supreme Court of the United States

November 10, 2015, Argued; March 22, 2016, Decided

No. 14-1146

Opinion

JUSTICE Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.

Following a jury trial, a class of employees recovered $2.9 million in compensatory damages from their employer for a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), 52 Stat. 1060, as amended, 29 U. S. C. §201 et seq. The employees’ primary grievance was that they did not receive statutorily mandated overtime pay for time spent donning and doffing protective equipment.

The employer [***7]  seeks to reverse the judgment. It makes two arguments. Both relate to whether it was proper to permit the employees to pursue their claims as a class. First, the employer argues the class should not have been certified because the primary method of proving injury assumed each employee spent the same time donning and doffing protective gear, even though differences in the composition of that gear may have meant that, in fact, employees took different amounts of time to don and doff. Second, the employer argues certification was improper because the  [**130]  damages awarded to the class may be distributed to some persons who did not work any uncompensated overtime.

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit concluded there was no error in the District Court’s decision to certify and maintain the class. This Court granted certiorari. 576 U. S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2806, 192 L. Ed. 2d 846 (2015).

 [*1042]  I

Respondents are employees at petitioner Tyson Foods’ pork processing plant in Storm Lake, Iowa. They work in the plant’s kill, cut, and retrim departments, where hogs are slaughtered, trimmed, and prepared for shipment. Grueling and dangerous, the work requires employees to wear certain protective gear. The exact composition of the gear depends on the tasks a worker [***8]  performs on a given day.

Until 1998, employees at the plant were paid under a system called “gang-time.” This compensated them only for time spent at their workstations, not for the time required to put on and take off their protective gear. In response to a federal-court injunction, and a Department of Labor suit to enforce that injunction, Tyson in 1998 began to pay all its employees for an additional four minutes a day for what it called “K-code time.” The 4-minute period was the amount of time Tyson estimated employees needed to don and doff their gear. In 2007, Tyson stopped paying K-code time uniformly to all employees. Instead, it compensated some employees for between four and eight minutes but paid others nothing beyond their gang-time wages. At no point did Tyson record the time each employee spent donning and doffing.

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136 S. Ct. 1036 *; 194 L. Ed. 2d 124 **; 2016 U.S. LEXIS 2134 ***; 84 U.S.L.W. 4142; 166 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P36,425; 26 Wage & Hour Cas. 2d (BNA) 297; 99 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. (Callaghan) 1371; 94 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 386; 26 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 37; 2016 WL 1092414

TYSON FOODS, INC., Petitioner v. PEG BOUAPHAKEO, et al., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Subsequent History: On remand at, Remanded by Bouaphakeo v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 9232 (8th Cir. Iowa, May 20, 2016)

Prior History:  [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

Bouaphakeo v. Tyson Foods Inc., 765 F.3d 791, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 16283 (8th Cir. Iowa, 2014)

Disposition: Affirmed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

employees, doffing, class member, district court, class action, classwide, predominance, damages, gear, amount of time, overtime, minutes, spent, estimated, class certification, individual issues, award damages, time spent, averages, susceptible, kill, collective action, uncompensated, questions, cases, certification, calculated, compensate, records, gang-time

Civil Procedure, Class Actions, Prerequisites for Class Action, Predominance, Evidence, Relevance, Exclusion of Relevant Evidence, Confusion, Prejudice & Waste of Time, Relevant Evidence, Admissibility, Expert Witnesses, Helpfulness, Special Proceedings, Prerequisites for Class Action, Business & Corporate Compliance, Labor & Employment Law, Wage & Hour Laws, Wage Payments, Labor & Employment Law, Administrative Proceedings, Burdens of Proof, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Burden Shifting, Weight & Sufficiency, Scope & Definitions, Overtime & Work Periods, Demonstrative Evidence