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Dole Food Sued in Class Action Claiming Unpaid Overtime Due to Unpaid Time Needed to Put on Safety Gear


This blog has previously dealt with the issue of the time taken to change into and out of protective gear required to do one’s job and whether or not that time should be compensated. The U.S. Department of Labor published an opinion stating that, since putting on and taking off the protective gear is required to perform the job, it is considered to be a “principal activity” and any time spent performing a principal activity should be paid by the employer.

Another such case has recently been filed in California by a former employee of Dole Food Company. Jose. L. Hernandez is proposing an overtime class action case against the major food company for time spent putting on and taking off personal safety equipment, which was required for him to perform his job. Allegedly, Dole employees are required to come in before the start of their shift to put on the protective gear, wait until the end of their shift before taking it off, and the gear must be taken off for meal and rest breaks and put back on again before their shift resumes. All of this is done on the employee’s own time and Hernandez is claiming that employees should be paid for that time.

The personal safety equipment is required, not only for the employee’s safety, but also to protect the environment and the food being handled. Guidelines on such protective measures have been getting tighter over the past twenty years and an e. coli outbreak in 2006 demonstrates the need for these protective measures to ward against cross contamination of human-borne pathogens and other bio hazards.

The lawsuit also alleges that, in addition to time spent donning and doffing the personal safety equipment, employees spend time waiting in lines, walking to and waiting at work stations, and washing and sanitizing. All of this is on their own time and, according to the lawsuit, should be paid by the employer since it is all necessary to the work they perform. When taken together, especially over an extended period of time, this adds up to hours of work for which employees are not getting paid.

The attorneys at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims against large corporations such as Dole Foods for failing to pay workers for breaks and time needed to put on clothing and other overtime violations. If you are the victim this practice call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.

The lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center have decades of experience fighting for wage earner’s rights. We have a team of overtime attorneys who focus on nationwide class action lawsuits and work out of Chicago and Oak Brook offices and prosecute claims for workers all over the Chicago area including Evanston and Joliet. We protect unpaid workers who haven’t received overtime throughout the Chicago area including in DuPage, Kane and Cook Counties.

Our Grayslake and Elmhurst overtime lawyers are intimately familiar with the issues that arise during wage claim litigation, and we know the laws that govern overtime cases well. Many employers misclassify employees as being exempt from overtime laws and pay workers salaries instead of hourly wages in order to avoid paying them overtime. Some employers mistakenly classify employees as exempt and others intentionally do so in order to circumvent the law. In either case, workers do not receive the wages they should, and a lawsuit may be the only way to recover their earned wages.

The Chicago Overtime Law Center is based in Chicago, and represents clients throughout the country who have not been paid for the overtime hours that they worked. If you believe that you are owed overtime wages, contact one of our Chicago wage and hour attorney by phone at (312) 869-4095 or through our online form.