Perdue Resolves Donning and Doffing Class Action Case

Aug. 9, 2002
A settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit employees filed against Perdue Farms Inc. in December 1999, and both sides hope it will resolve the long-disputed issue of whether or not Perdue employees should be paid for the time they spend donning and doffing protective clothing and equipment.

Attorneys in the case Trotter v. Perdue Farms Inc. submitted the settlement agreement for approval to the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.

In May, the Department of Labor filed of one of the largest consent judgments in the history of its Wage and Hour Division, estimated to be worth over $10 million to Perdue poultry workers, in which the company agreed to change current and future pay practices at all of its domestic poultry processing facilities, and compensate more than 25,000 current and former employees for time spent "donning and doffing" work clothing and protective gear. (See "Perdue Farms Settles, Tyson Food Fights Donning and Doffing Disputes," May 10, 2002)

"[This] action will finally and completely put to rest this contentious issue. It is the right thing to do for our associates and for the company," said Perdue Farms Chairman Jim Perdue of yesterday's settlement. "In resolving this matter I had one goal: 'Do the right thing that is fair for all our associates.' This agreement does just that."

James Finberg, co-lead counsel for the Perdue plaintiffs, stated during the court proceedings, "After reviewing the facts and the law in this case… I have concluded that this case arose from a legitimate dispute as to whether Perdue was obligated to pay for the time in question in this case."

The proposed agreement provides for Perdue Farms to pay class members who were covered by the Trotter case, rather than the DOL action, an additional eight minutes each workday for time spent donning and doffing certain clothing and equipment during the period of time covered by the DOL action. The agreement also provides for back pay for earlier periods, plus an adjustment in pension contributions based on the back pay award. The agreement provides for a settlement amount of $10 million.

It will probably come as no surprise that the plaintiffs' lawyers intend to seek court approval for a payment of their legal fees and reimbursement of their expenses totaling approximately $3 million, which will be deducted from the settlement amount, leaving approximately $7 million for payments to past and present Perdue processing associates.

The United States District Court for the District of Delaware will conduct a Fairness Hearing on the agreement on October 17.

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