Cruz-Alvarez and Canfield Analyze SCOTUS’ Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo

Shook, Hardy & Bacon Partner Frank Cruz-Alvarez and Associate Rachel Canfield write on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo in an April 13, 2016, Washington Legal Foundation’s Legal Pulse article.

About the ruling, Cruz-Alvarez and Canfield say, “The U.S. Supreme Court deviated from its historically stringent view on class certification and affirmed an Eighth Circuit decision to uphold certification of a class of Tyson Foods, Inc. employees who brought suit against Tyson for a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA).”

The article explains how the suit came about, with Tyson initially paying all employees for an equal amount of time spent donning and doffing protective gear, but later adjusting the policy to pay some (but not all) employees for additional “don and doff” time. Cruz-Alvarez and Canfield note that “Plaintiffs alleged Tyson’s failure to compensate them for time spent performing this ‘integral and indispensable’ work activity violated the FLSA by lengthening their workweek beyond 40 hours without providing them with overtime pay.”

The authors note that Tyson did not keep records of donning-and-doffing time, so “employees relied on representative evidence,” all aimed at calculating the average time that each group of employees spent to don and doff their protective gear. Tyson challenged “whether certificatoin based on representative evidence was sufficient to satisfy Rule 23(b)(3)’s requirement that ‘questions of law or fact common to class members predominate over any questions affecting only individual members.”

Regarding the longer-term implications of the ruling, the authors express, “Tyson’s language indicates the decision is limited. The decision itself articulates a more clearly defined predominance analysis and highlights important factors to consider in the future, such as whether a business should maintain adequate records of statutorily required information or whether to implement uniform policies.”