A Nebraska jury decided yesterday that Tyson did not wrongfully withhold pay from its workers for time putting on and taking off safety gear at its Lexington, NE plant. The suit against Tyson’s Lexington, NE plant is one of many against Tyson and the meatpacking industry in general for pay for time putting on and taking off gear. There is currently a suit involving Tyson’s Madison, NE plant pending trial.
Today I received a call from a union official at a local packing plant asking me if the company could force injured employees to apply ice and heat to their injuries during break.
I answered it depends on whether the company or the employee receives the predominant benefit of the icing. The predominant benefit analysis is the framework for deciding “donning and doffing cases.” In donning and doffing cases, the issue is whether taking off and putting on safety equipment before and after a shift as well as during meal and break times should be paid. I think the same analysis could work for “icing and heating.” One argument for icing and heating time not being compensable is that the pain relief predominately benefits the employee. However, employers argued in the donning and doffing cases that wearing safety gear benefits employees, but courts have still found the predominate benefit question to be one answerable by a jury (subscription required).