Employees Seek Judicial Approval of $7.75M Settlement in Pork Production Workers’ Overtime Pay Suit

A Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuit against Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp., Smithfield Fresh Meats Corp., and Kansas City Sausage Company LLC (collectively, Smithfield) may be nearing resolution after the plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion for preliminary settlement approval. The plaintiffs accused Smithfield, one of the largest pork producers in the nation, of failing to pay correct overtime rates from April through October 2020 after the company gave employees a bonus and a pay bump during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week’s motion explains that Smithfield wanted to increase its employees’ pay during the pandemic, and did so by giving each a $500 bonus in May 2020 and increased the workforce’s regular hourly compensation for several months hence. In the Northern District of Illinois lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that the extra bonus and increased hourly wages should have been factored into employees’ overtime rates, but were not.

Procedurally, the case was filed in August last year. Smithfield answered the complaint in October and filed an amended answer in November. During a Feb. 2 settlement conference, the parties purportedly reached the instant agreement.

The proposed settlement classes, both a nationwide FLSA class and an Illinois class, reportedly consist of more than 30,000 workers. The classes include exempt Smithfield employees who received the pay boosts. The motion seeks approval of the settlement and class notice, certification of the settlement classes, the appointment of class counsel, and the scheduling of the final fairness hearing within three months of preliminary approval, among other things. 

The plaintiffs are represented by The Fish Law Firm P.C.