U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Employee Class Action Suit Against Tyson Foods

David G. Savage reported in today’s Los Angeles Times that, “The Supreme Court dealt a setback to corporate America on Tuesday by upholding a nearly $6-million class-action verdict for a group of Iowa meat packers who contended they were not paid for time spent putting on and taking off safety gear.

“The high court has been skeptical of class-action claims in recent years, and when the justices agreed to hear the appeal from Tyson Foods, corporate groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Assn. of Manufacturers — had hoped the justices would use the case to further rein in class-action claims.

“Instead, in a 6-2 ruling, the high court said the class-action claim made sense.”

Mr. Savage explained that, “In its appeal, Tyson had argued that the workers could not prove how much time they spent putting on their protective clothing, relying instead on estimates.

Since the company did not keep records, workers used an expert who studied a sample and concluded they spent on average about 18 minutes a day putting on safety gear.

“That’s good enough, said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. ‘A representative or statistical sample, like all evidence, is a means to establish or defend against liability,’ he said.”

Wall Street Journal writer Jess Bravin added that, “Tuesday’s decision was the latest suggestion the court is hesitating to further limit consumer and employee class actions. In January, the court rejected a telemarketer’s argument that it could kill a class-action case by offering the lead plaintiff the maximum damages provided under an anti-robocall law—in that case, $1,500.

“Another significant class-action case remains to be decided before July. In it, data-aggregator Spokeo Inc. argues it can’t be held liable for posting online false information about an individual if he can’t prove he was harmed by it.”

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