Ex-workers for Pilgrim's Pride await settlement payout

Ex-workers for Pilgrim's Pride await settlement payout

June 28th, 2010 by Perla Trevizo in News

TIMELINE

* The initial lawsuit against Pilgrim's Pride was filed in Texas in April 20, 2006.

* On May 10, 2007, a judicial panel transferred the case and all related actions to the Western District of Arkansas, El Dorado Division. On March 13, 2008, a court order granted a motion to certify the case as a collective action.

* On April 2, 2010, a settlement for $10 million was approved by a U.S. District judge.

Source: Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll law firm

Every day, Rose Mary Porter anxiously checks her mail. She's waiting to get her settlement check from Pilgrim's Pride Corp., where she worked almost six years.

"(The money) will come in very handy," said the retired 62-year-old who cares for two of her great-grandchildren.

"It might afford me the opportunity to buy me a car, which I need, (and) my children are going to be starting school and that will help out with school supplies and clothes," she said at her Alton Park home.

Mrs. Porter is a named plaintiff in a lawsuit involving close to 10,000 former and current Pilgrim's Pride employees across the nation, including Georgia and Tennessee, suing for unpaid time spent donning and doffing required protective gear.

In early April a settlement was reached for $10 million, and checks ranging from $50 to more than $3,000 should start arriving soon, according to attorneys involved in the case.

"We thought it was a very good settlement for the workers to get them a significant percentage of the wages they were due," said Jenny Yang, an attorney with the Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll law firm, lead counsel representing the plaintiffs.

"I think it does show other companies that they are taking a big risk by choosing to ignore a number of cases that are found at this time as compensable work, and they are eventually going to have to change their practices," she said.

Gary Rhodes, vice president of corporate communications and investor relations at Pilgrim's Pride Corp., said the company didn't have any comment.

In 2008, former director of corporate communications Ray Atkinson said in regard to the lawsuit that "Pilgrim's Pride believes that we did properly pay our employees, and we intend to show that in the lawsuit."

For six years Mrs. Porter and many other employees had to take off, put on and clean their smocks, rubber gloves, cloth gloves, earplugs, plastic sleeves and a hairnet every time they went to work, went out for lunch or breaks and before they went home.

All of it occurred during time they allege they didn't get paid for.

Lubia del Cid, who was among the 100 immigrants caught in an immigration raid at the local plant in 2008 and still is fighting her case, said any amount the company gives them is needed greatly.

"I feel it's money that belongs to us," said the mother of a 2-year-old and 4-year-old who worked for the company almost five years.

Pilgrim's Pride, the nation's largest chicken producer before it filed for bankruptcy protection in early December 2008, settled two other lawsuits with similar claims, one which requires the company to change its pay practice within 24 months at unionized facilities, according to court documents.

The company emerged from bankruptcy in late December 2009.