On March 22, 2016, in a 6-3 ruling in favor of the employees, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which had affirmed the District Court’s use of evidentiary inferences in plaintiffs’ attempt to prove the “hours worked” where the employer failed to keep records, in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo (No. 14-1146), 577 U.S. ___ (3-22-16).
The Supreme Court’s 6–3 Decision
On March 22, 2016, in a 6-3 decision, in the context of a class action, the Supreme Court decided Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, also in favor of the employees’ position that they should not be saddled with the responsibility of “proving their case” as would normally be required, by direct evidence of breach or violation, but rather by circumstantial inferences that arise out of the employer’s failure to keep records.
The District Court’s Ruling
Until 1998, Tyson Foods operated under a practice of paying its employees at the plant under a system called “gang-time.” Employees were paid only for time spent at their workstations, not for the time required to put on and take off their protective gear, i.e., to “prepare on the job.” A federal-court injunction, and a Department of Labor suit to enforce that injunction, resulted in Tyson Foods adopting a policy change in 1998. The policy change caused Tyson to begin to pay all its.READ MORE