Reich v. IBP, Inc.

Citation820 F. Supp. 1315
Decision Date03 June 1993
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 88-2171-EEO.
PartiesRobert B. REICH, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff, v. IBP, INC., Defendant.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas

820 F. Supp. 1315

Robert B. REICH,1 Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff,
IBP, INC., Defendant.

Civ. A. No. 88-2171-EEO.

United States District Court, D. Kansas.

April 28, 1993.

Order Vacating Decision in Part June 3, 1993.

820 F. Supp. 1316
820 F. Supp. 1317
820 F. Supp. 1318
Michael A. Stabler, U.S. Dept. of Labor, Kansas City, MO, for plaintiff

David L. Wing, Michael F. Delaney, Jack L. Whitacre, Spencer, Fane, Britt & Browne, Kansas City, MO, Wendell F. Cowan, Jr., Lonnie O. Grigsby, Douglas F. Duchek, IBP, Inc., Dakota City, NE, John N. Badgerow, Spencer, Fane, Britt & Browne, Overland Park, KS, Ronald J. James, Squire, Sanders & Dempsy, Cleveland, OH, for defendant.


EARL E. O'CONNOR, District Judge.

This action filed by the Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor ("USDOL"), alleges that defendant, Iowa Beef Packers ("IBP"), violated sections 15(a)(2) and 15(a)(5) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. ("the FLSA"), during the period from April 1, 1986, to August 1, 1988 (the "relevant period"). Pursuant to section 17 of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 217, the Secretary seeks to enjoin and restrain defendant from violating the overtime and recordkeeping provisions contained in sections 7 and 11(c) of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 207, 211(c).

The trial of this case was bifurcated and the first phase, the compensability issue, was tried to the court for three days commencing September 14, 1992. The court, after considering all the evidence and briefs submitted by the parties, makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a).

Findings of Fact

1. Plaintiff Lynn Martin was, at the time of the trial of this matter, the current duly appointed Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, and was charged with the duties, responsibilities and authority vested in her by the provisions of the FLSA.

2. Defendant, IBP, Inc., was a corporation engaged in the slaughter, processing and packing of beef and pork with places of business in the following locations: Emporia and Holcomb ("Finney County"), Kansas; Madison and West Point, Nebraska; Luverne, Minnesota; Denison, Storm Lake, Council Bluffs, and Columbus Junction ("Louisa County"), Iowa; Joslin, Illinois; and Boise, Idaho.

3. The Emporia, Finney County, and Joslin plants ("the complex plants") conducted slaughter, carcass production,2 and beef processing operations. The Boise, West Point, Luverne, and Denison plant operations were limited to slaughter and carcass production of beef. The Madison, Council Bluffs, Storm Lake and Columbus Junction plants (the "pork plants") were engaged in the killing and processing of hogs.

4. These plants varied in physical size and number of employees. IBP employed between 6,000 and 7,000 employees on a given day in these eleven plants—the complex plants were the largest with over 1,200 employees. In all, approximately 23,580 hourly production workers were employed during the relevant period.

820 F. Supp. 1319

5. The production floor was divided into two "sides" — the "hot side" and the "cold side." The hot side involved a series of work stations along the chain from which the carcass hung while various portions were removed. The hot side ended at the final rail where the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA") inspected the carcass.3 At that point, if the meat passed inspection, it became "edible product" and was placed in the "hot box" where the meat was chilled. The meat then proceeded to the cold side for processing.

6. Within each side, there were generally two types of hourly production workers: 1) those who used knives or other meat cutting utensils in the performance of their jobs; and 2) those who did not use knives or other cutting utensils.

7. Generally, all production employees wore sanitary white outer garments and at least some protective gear while on the production floor.

8. Safety Equipment Requirements:

Production employees were required by general Occupational Health and Safety ("OHSA") requirements to wear at least a hard hat, safety footwear,4 and ear plugs while working on the production floor. In addition, production workers who used knives or other meat cutting utensils were also required by OHSA to wear various types of special personal protective equipment. Unlike the hard hat, earplugs, and safety footwear, this additional protective equipment was unique to the meat processing industry and was mandated by the nature of the work performed by the employees. IBP did not allow employees to perform any production duties without the required personal protective equipment.

The personal protective equipment requirements varied by position on the production floor. In general, employees wore some combination of the following: a mesh apron, a plastic belly guard, mesh sleeves or plastic arm guards, wrist wraps, mesh gloves, rubber gloves, "polar sleeves," rubber boots, a chain belt, a weight belt, a scabbard, and shin guards.

9. Generally, IBP furnished employees with personal protective equipment.5 Until 1988, employees were required to store all IBP-owned personal protective equipment (except safety footwear) in their lockers at the plant; they were only allowed to take this equipment home with special permission. This practice was designed to insure that the personal protective equipment was available at the plant for use by the employee on each shift and to safeguard the equipment. In 1988, however, IBP made storage in the lockers optional and employees were allowed to take the equipment outside the plant.

10. Employees were required to pay the cost of any personal protective gear that was lost or stolen. Thus, the lockers benefitted the employees by enabling them to conveniently and securely store the equipment on the premises.

11. Sanitary Requirements:

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service ("FSIS") required production employees who handled exposed edible product to cover street clothing with a clean outer garment, preferably of a light color, and to wear hairnets or other effective hair restraints. Employees were prohibited by IBP from wearing their outer garment outside the plant, but hairnets were permitted to be worn outside the plant.

12. IBP furnished most employees with clean white outer garments ("whites") and, at most plants,6 with daily laundry service at no

820 F. Supp. 1320
charge to the employee. Employees at the Joslin, Finney County, Emporia, and Denison plants were, until sometime in late 1987 or 1988, required to pick up whites at the laundry room before their shift and return them to the laundry room after the shift. After that time and at all other plants throughout the relevant period (except Boise), the whites were placed in a bag on the employees' locker door at the start of each work day. Employees were required to place the outer garments in a receptacle located in the production area or near the locker room door at the end of the shift

13. In addition, about ten percent of employees on the slaughter side were required to wear rubber aprons for sanitary purposes.

14. FSIS required that all sanitary and personal protective equipment used by production employees engaged in the slaughter, cutting, or boning operations be maintained in a clean and sanitary manner.

15. Optional Equipment:

Many employees not required to wear a rubber apron chose to do so for comfort because it kept them dry and made cleanup easier. Employees also wore cotton or rubber gloves, cotton aprons, and additional layers of clothing under their whites for comfort or convenience.

16. Employees were required to remove their clean outergarments and protective gear before going to the restroom or to the cafeteria for their lunch break.

17. Knives:

IBP furnished knives and other meat cutting utensils to employees at no cost.7 These cutting utensils were primarily sharpened8 and serviced by knife room personnel who were paid for their work in the knife room.

18. The procedures by which employees obtained sharpened knives for use on the production floor varied by plant location. The knife room opened at least an hour before the first shift began and closed an hour after the last shift ended. Generally, employees visited the knife room either before or after their production shift. However, some employees also went to the knife room during their paid breaks, unpaid lunch breaks, or paid work time.

At most plants, employees exchanged their knives for sharpened knives at the knife room only when necessary. At these plants, workers stored the knives in their lockers overnight. At the Finney County plant, employees were required to check their knives into the knife room each night and pick them up each morning. Similarly, at the West Point plant, at least some employees were required to deposit their knives in a rack at the knife room each night and pick them up each morning.

At some plants, employees waited at the knife room while their knives were sharpened and returned to them. At others, employees exchanged dull knives for sharpened knives. Either way, workers frequently had to wait in line at the knife room.

19. IBP required production employees to report for work at the start of each shift with clean knives and protective equipment and to maintain them in a sanitary manner throughout the shift. To comply with these requirements, most employees cleaned their knives and personal protective equipment at wash facilities using hot water from high pressure hoses located within the production area. This occurred as often as necessary during the shift and at the end of the shift. Employees were paid for all cleaning that occurred during the production shift, but were not paid for cleaning that occurred at the end of the production shift. Some employees had to wait...

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