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Supreme Court rules for workers in pay dispute

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled Tuesday in IBP Inc. v. Alvarez [Duke Law backgrounder] that meat packing companies must pay their workers for the time it takes to change into and out of protective clothing and other safety equipment, in addition to the time it takes the employees to walk to their work stations. In the unanimous opinion [PDF text], Justice Stevens wrote that both "donning and doffing" of safety gear and the time it takes workers to walk to the production areas are "integral and indispensable" to the employees' workweek, entitling workers to compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) [PDF text]. The Court also held, however, that under the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947 [PDF text], which exempts certain activities from the FLSA, workers were not required to be compensated for time they spent waiting in line for equipment.

In a second unanimous opinion handed down Tuesday, the Court held in United States v. Olson [Duke Law backgrounder] that the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled too broadly in allowing a lawsuit brought by two mineworkers against the US federal government. Justice Breyer wrote that, under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) [text], suits against the government were permitted only where local law would make a "private person" liable in tort, not where local law would make "a state or municipal entity" liable. The Ninth Circuit had held that because Arizona law would have allowed a suit against the federal government, the negligence lawsuit could proceed. Read the Court's opinion [PDF text]. AP has more.

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