MINNEAPOLIS - A group of seasonal employees at the Del Monte Foods Sleepy Eye canning plant who sought wages for time spent putting on mandatory safety gear at the start of work shifts and removing it at the end of shifts, prevailed Oct. 4, 2012 in federal court.
Citing the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 207, Yendi Trevino, Vanessa Quintanilla, Lydia Diaz, Claudia Diaz, and Maria Diaz and others filed suit Sept. 29, 2010.
The women claimed they were entitled to wages for time spent putting on and taking off work gear such as boots, glasses, ear plugs, hair nets, smocks, gloves, and/or protective hard hats; time spent taking it off; and for time spent walking from changing areas to workstations and back.
The lawsuit is typically referred to as a "don-and-doff" case.
Del Monte initially denied the allegations, claiming employees were properly paid, and denied any law violations, according to a Notice of Collective Action Claim sent to all non-exempt, non-supervisory Del Monte employees who worked at the Sleepy Eye Del Monte plant from Sept. 28, 2007 to Sept. 26, 2011.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota authorized distribution of the notice, which noted that FLSA claims have a three-year maximum statute of limitations.
Ninety-four Del Monte employees returned claim forms accepted as valid. Claims represented more than 45 percent of the dollar amount available for distribution. Only one person sought to exclude themselves from the suit and nobody objected to the settlement, according to court documents.
A team of attorneys representing the employees was awarded $104,679 in fees and $12,157 for reimbursement of litigation expenses and costs, according to court documents.
Identified plaintiffs were each awarded $1,000 incentive payments, according to court documents. Checks with amounts determined by how much wages employees were owed in the settlement were mailed earlier this month.
Plaintiff attorney Troy Poetz of St. Cloud said the total case settlement amount was not public record but he felt satisfied with it.
"We're pleased with the settlement. It was fair. Clients were pleased with the outcome," Poetz said. "We've handled a few cases like this. Del Monte was very easy to deal with. They care about their employees and the community."
Poetz said employees spent about 15 minutes a day putting on and taking off protective gear.
Del Monte Lead Attorney David J. Goldstein of Minneapolis was not available for comment Monday.
For more information, visit pa.courts.state.mn.us/CaseDetail/aspx?CaseID=1614069811
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).