Creekstone Farms Meat Processing Employees File Lawsuit over Unpaid Wages, Overtime

A group of workers at a Kansas slaughterhouse have filed a lawsuit claiming that Creekstone Farms Premium Beef failed to pay them for all of the hours they worked. The federal <"">wage and overtime lawsuit seeks class action status to represent roughly 700 employees who worked at the Creekstone Farms Premium Beef slaughterhouse in the past three years.

According to the lawsuit, meat processing employees at Creekstone Farms were paid on the basis of “gang time.” They were paid only when their production line was running, and for an additional 10 minutes per day to put on protective clothing. They also were not paid for overtime, according to the lawsuit.

Paz Sanchez, one of two lead plaintiffs filing the unpaid wage and overtime lawsuit, told the Associated Press that she was usually not paid for two to two-and-a-half hours of work each week. Sanchez, the single mother of three children, began working at the Creekstone Farms facility in Arkansas, Kansas in May 2003, but quit last month because of what she said was harassment by her supervisors.

“The failure of an employer of food processing employees to pay the employees for all their compensable time is a common occurrence,” an attorney representing the workers told the Associated Press. “It seems the employers have an attitude of `catch me if you can.'”

In the past, other food processing companies have been named in similar wage and hour lawsuits. For example, Tyson Foods, Inc. has faced numerous lawsuits for failing to pay workers for the time it took to put on and take off sanitary and protective clothing at its processing facilities. In 2010, Tyson settled with the U.S. Department of Labor and agreed to pay factory workers for all hours on the job and $500,000 in previously unpaid overtime wages.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that most employees in the U.S. be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked, as well as overtime pay at time and one-half the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek. According to the Labor Department, in fiscal year 2008, more than 197,000 employees received a total of $140.2 million in minimum wage and overtime back wages because of FLSA violations. The majority of these violations involved unpaid overtime. If an employer violates the FLSA, a plaintiff employee is entitled to statutory damages, which include past wages, attorney fees, and liquidated damages.

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