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Supreme Court upholds class action against Tyson Foods

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that employees may pursue their class action claim against the company. Workers at a pork processing plant in Iowa filed suit against Tyson alleging that denying them overtime compensation violated the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA). Specifically, the employees' work requires that they wear protective gear that varies from day to day. The employer compensated some employees for the time spent donning and doffing protective gear and did not keep track for the responsibilities. The workers also sought the certification of their state and FLSA claims as a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 and as a collective action under their FLSA claims. The corporation objected to the certification of both classes and argued that the variety in the times and the protective gear that the workers wore was too dissimilar to be "resolved on a classwide basis." The workers attempted to prove their damages by providing [ NYT report] an "expert witness's statistical inferences from hundreds of videotaped observations of how long it took workers to get ready." Justice Anthony Kennedy, delivering the opinion of the court, stated that statistical proof was sufficient and that workers should not suffer because the company failed to keep records.

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in the case in November on whether differences among plaintiff members can be ignored for the purposes of a class action lawsuit when damages will be calculated that presume all class members are identical. Earlier this month, Guest Columnists Evan M. Meyers and Paul Geske of McGuire Law, PC discussed [JURIST op-ed] the implications of the court's recent decision in another class action law suit, Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez [JURIST report]. Another class action suit currently before the court, Spokeo v. Robins [JURIST report], asks whether Congress may confer Article III standing upon a plaintiff who suffers no concrete harm and who therefore could not otherwise invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court, by authorizing a private right of action based on a rare violation of a federal statute.

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