Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, 577 U.S. ___, 136 S. Ct. 1036 (2016)
Following a jury trial, the employees in this class/collective action recovered $2.9 million in compensatory damages for violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The employees alleged that they did not receive statutorily mandated overtime pay for the time they spent donning and doffing protective equipment at a pork processing plant in Storm Lake, Iowa. Tyson compensated some employees for between four and eight minutes of donning and doffing time per shift but paid others no additional wages. Tyson argued that because of the variance in protective gear that each employee wore, the employees’ claims were not sufficiently similar to be resolved on a classwide or collective basis. Because Tyson did not keep records of donning and doffing time, the employees relied upon employee testimony, video recordings of donning and doffing at the plant and a study performed by an industrial relations expert, Dr. Kenneth Mericle. Dr. Mericle conducted 744 videotaped observations and analyzed the average length that various donning and doffing activities took for different departments. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in favor of the employees, holding that the employees could rely upon Dr. Mericle’s sample as a permissible means of establishing hours worked in a class action setting and rejecting the employer’s argument that use of the study represented an improper “Trial by Formula.” See also Rodriguez v. E.M.E., Inc., 2016 WL 1613803 (Cal. Ct. App. 2016) (rest breaks in an eight-hour shift should fall on either side of the meal break and should not be combined before or after the meal break).