John Eiden, President of United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1473, announced today that the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld workers’ claims that Hormel Foods Corporation’s “off the clock” pay practices violate Wisconsin law. In 2010, Local 1473 and several employees filed a class action lawsuit in Rock County over Hormel’s failure to pay for the time employees spend changing into and out of uniforms and safety gear at Hormel’s Beloit processing plant that can its chili and other products. Hormel requires its Beloit employees to put on and then take off uniforms and safety equipment but does not count the time spent as work time. In 2013, Rock County Judge Michael Fitzpatrick ordered Hormel to pay over $190,000 in back pay to the members of class who were affected by Hormel’s policy of not counting the time spent in the off the clock activities as work time under Wisconsin law.
Eiden noted, “We are pleased that a majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed that the time spent by workers putting on and taking off uniforms and safety gear must be counted as time worked and that workers must be paid for that time. Under Wisconsin law, these tasks that an employer requires be done on its premises must be considered as work.” Eiden added, “This is the first time in years that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld worker rights.” At a time when labor is under attack across the country, the Supreme Court decision amplifies the plain fact that organized labor remains the best method for demanding workplace justice–whether through the courts or across the bargaining table. Eiden thanked the Union’s lawyers, Mark Sweet and Jack Loomis, for successfully litigating the case before the trial court and on appeal. Eiden also stated, “Local 1473 stands ready to help workers enforce their rights under state and federal laws and stands ready to protect their rights and to act in solidarity to obtain those rights.” Eiden concluded that he looks forward to working with Hormel to fix pay practices at the Beloit plant.