44 Lab. & Emp. L. 1 (2015-2016)

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              FALL  2015
 VOLUME   44  NUMBER 1
     Section of Labor and
         Employment  Law
American  Bar Association


The roster of cases pending on
the Supreme Court's docket for
the term starting in October 2015
poses substantial threats to the
viability of employment class
actions.
  The Supreme Court will hear
oral arguments on Tyson Foods,
Inc., v. Bouaphakeo, No. 14-1146,
on November  10, 2015. Back on
August 25, 2014, the Eighth Circuit
had affirmed the jury's $5,785,757.40
verdict on compensable time
claims brought under both the
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
and the Iowa Wage Payment Col-
lection Law. The class plaintiffs
sued Tyson for not paying over-
time for time spent donning and
doffing personal protective equip-
ment (PPE) and clothing as well as
for walking time between lockers
and the production floor in a meat
processing plant in Storm Lake,
Iowa. Tyson paid the employees
on gang time and K-code time
but did not record all the allegedly
compensable work time, resulting
in the alleged underpayments. The
court conducted a nine-day jury
trial in which plaintiffs proved lia-
bility and damages using individ-
ual time sheets, and average don-
ning, doffing, and walking times
calculated from 744 videotaped


employee observations. The class
had 3,344 members, of whom 212
workers had no damages for
overtime pay even when the
average uncompensated times
were added to their time sheets.
On appeal, the Eighth Circuit
affirmed under Anderson v. Mt.
Clemens Pottery (1946), which
allows, when an employer fails to
keep records, for damages to be
estimated by just and reasonable
inferences from representative
evidence.


  This might appear, to many of
the Section's wage/hour class
action litigators, to be an unre-
markable scenario. However, the
Supreme Court granted certiorari
on two questions that go to the
heart of whether private counsel
or even the Secretary of Labor
can enforce overtime or mini-
mum  wage laws on a class, col-
lective, or group basis. The two
questions presented are
(1) whether a wage/hour class
action under FRCP 23(b)(3) can


be tried using representative evi-
dence resulting in an average
recovery, and (2) whether in a
Rule 23(b)(3) or collective action
plaintiffs must demonstrate that
all class members have been
injured (i.e., have damages)? A
ruling in Tyson could conceivably
limit or overrule the longstand-
ing Mt. Clemens rule, decades of
enforcement practices by the
Department of Labor, and the
more recent trend, starting in the
1990s, of wage/hour enforcement
by the private bar. Already, at
least one federal court in Califor-
nia has stayed a putative wage/
hour class action seeking pay-
ments for bag check time to
await a ruling in Tyson (see Pelz
v. Abercrombie & Fitch, No. CV14-
06327-DSF, C.D. Cal., Dkt. No. 63).
In late September, the Solicitor
General and the Solicitor of Labor
submitted a brief in support of
the employees' position. Numer-
ous employer and employee advo-
cates have also submitted amicus
briefs on these critical issues.
  On April 27, 2015, the Supreme
Court also granted certiorari in
Robins v. Spokeo, No. 13-1339, a
Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
case out of the Ninth Circuit.
             continued on page 10


Published in Labor and Employment Law, Volume 44, Number 1, Fall 2015. @2015 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion
thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.


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