Perdue Settles Back Pay Suit for $10 Million

August 8, 2002 ( - Perdue Farms has agreed to pay $10 million in back pay for more than 60,000 employees as part of a settlement of a class-action lawsuit and to give some workers pension credits.

This new settlement is in addition to the $10 million agreement between the US Department of Labor (DoL) and Perdue announced on May 9,2002. The latest deal has been granted preliminary approval by a judge, but is still subject to the court’s final approval.

Under the new settlement, tens of thousands of workers who will not receive money from the DoL settlement will now receive payments for time spent “donning and doffing,” — obtaining, putting on, sanitizing and removing protective clothing and gear.

Thousands of employees will also receive payments in addition to those they will receive under the DoL deal.

In addition, unique to the new settlement, Perdue is required to issue retroactive credit under one of its retirement plans for “donning and doffing” work if the credit would improve employees’ or former employees’ eligibility for pension benefits.

Filed in 1999, the lawsuit alleged that Perdue requires its hourly chicken processing employees to work “off-the-clock” without compensation or retirement benefit contributions in violation of ERISA, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and various state wage and hour laws.

 Perdue required its poultry processing workers to be ready to work, with work clothing and protective safety gear on, when the production line commenced, but didn’t pay workers or provide credit under its pension plan for the time spent putting on the gear or cleaning up at the end of day, lawyers for the workers argued.

Under the settlement, over 60,000 hourly wage employees who work or worked on the assembly line in Perdue chicken processing plants are eligible to submit claims for unpaid wages. Perdue’s 18 chicken processing plants are located in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia