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News Release

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Employment Standards Administration

ESA Press Release: U.S. Department of Labor Again Sues Iowa Beef Processors, Inc. For Labor Law Violations [04/24/1998]

For more information call: (202) 219-8305

The U.S. Department of Labor is again taking court action to recover back wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for over 20,000 employees of Iowa Beef Processors, Inc., (IBP), a major Midwestern meat packing company, the department announced today.

On April 10, the department filed suit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City to recover back wages for employees who were not paid for certain required work performed before and after their regular shifts in 12 plants since 1994. Although the exact amount of the back wages has not been calculated, they may be as high as $8 million.

"The department's preference is always to work with employers to reach agreements to resolve cases without having to take court action," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "However, the department has repeatedly had to return to court to get IBP to come into compliance and obtain appropriate restitution for its employees. We will not hesitate to continue our court action on behalf of IBP's employees to ensure that they receive the wages they are entitled to."

In October 1997, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver affirmed the district court's order that IBP pay $4.5 million in back wages and more than $2.6 million in interest to some 23,500 employees who worked in 11 plants in six states from 1986 to 1988. The award of the damages was based on the district court's finding that 14 minutes per day per employee was due in compensable time for uncompensated pre-shift and post-shift work. In that same decision, the Tenth Circuit also upheld the district court's order to permanently enjoin IBP from committing future violations of the overtime and recordkeeping provisions of the FLSA.

These court decisions followed earlier district and appeals court decisions, dealing with the amount of back wages owed and the issuance of a permanent injunction, regarding what pre-shift and post-shift activities performed by IBP's workers were compensable. Specifically, those earlier decisions held that time spent by "knifewielding" employees in putting on, taking off and cleaning their unique protective equipment, as well as obtaining and cleaning their knives, was compensable under the FLSA.

The most recent case was filed after extensive settlement discussions with IBP were unsuccessful.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Agency
Employment Standards Administration
Date
April 24, 1998
Contact: David Roberts
Phone Number