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Crosspost: Lawsuits Against Two West Michigan Meat-packing Plants

Sarah Viets • Oct 01, 2009

Workers in west Michigan are suing against two meat-packing plants for lost wages according to a recent article in the Grand Rapids News.

By Nardy Baeza Bickel, The Grand Rapids Pres…

GRAND RAPIDS — Two area meat-packing plants are being sued separately in federal court for allegedly not paying their workers for a full day, including the time spent putting on and taking off their required protective gear.

While the suit is being brought by a dozen workers, the number of plaintiffs could swell to 1,400 current or former meat-packing employees if the lawsuits achieve the class-action status being sought.

At issue are thousands of dollars in alleged unpaid wages, said Robert Alvarez, an attorney for employees of local Boar’s Head Provisions Co. Inc. and Michigan Turkey Producers Cooperative Inc. plants.

He said both plants failed to meet federal law that requires employers to pay workers for “donning and doffing” — the time they spend putting on and taking off required protective gear such as safety glasses, hair nets, gowns, boots and gloves.

Both companies deny any wrongdoing, saying they pay their employees fairly and according to the law.

In the Boar’s Head lawsuit, 11 current and former workers at the Holland plant, 284 Roost Ave., allege the company failed to pay overtime wages, didn’t pay workers for donning and doffing time and intentionally violated federal law.

That lawsuit, filed earlier this year, also argues Boar’s Head violated the minimum wage law and was unjustly enriched from the deal.

The company denies the claim, saying two years ago it implemented a written policy to ensure workers were getting paid for their donning and doffing time, said RuthAnn LaMore, director of communications at Sarasota, Fla.-based Boar’s Head.

“Our policies were put in place toensure employees are treated fairly,” she said. “We have fulfilled the legal obligation. That’s why we’re fighting the class action lawsuit.”

U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell is assigned to the Boar’s Head case and is expected to make a decision about its class-action status in the next month.

Such a collective classification would open the door for another 900 workers at Boar’s Head to join the lawsuit, and 500 more at Michigan Turkey if U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker agrees to the class-action request in that case, attorneys said. Press File PhotoMichigan Turkey Producers Cooperative officials reject all claims in the lawsuit.That second lawsuit, filed in May by Guadalupe Aguilera, alleges the Michigan Turkey Producers Cooperative, 2140 Chicago Drive SW in Wyoming, consistently denied overtime pay, exploited an employee’s inability to speak English to “abhorrently underpay him,” and didn’t pay for preparatory time, including donning and doffing.

Read the full article here: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/09/lawsuits_against_two_west_mich.html

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