Smithfield Foods Sued by Employees for Not Paying for Overtime Work

Multiple employees at a Smithfield Foods, Inc. pork processing plant, led by Jessica Smith, filed a collective action lawsuit on Tuesday in the Eastern District of Virginia alleging that the company did not pay its non-exempt employees for overtime work and participation in required activities to prepare for work in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 

Smith was reportedly employed by Smithfield as a knife operator at its pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, from May 2017 to June 2020. The plaintiff alleged that she and others in the putative class were paid hourly, and that she typically worked between 42 and 70 hours each week, but was only paid for work during her scheduled hours and was not paid the required overtime compensation. 

According to the complaint, employees at the plant were not paid for time spent changing into protective equipment, getting assignments, and performing production work, which took between 15 and 30 minutes daily. The plaintiff purported that these duties were an “integral and indispensable part of their principal activities,” were required by Smithfield, and benefited Smithfield. Additionally, the plaintiff explained that putting on personal protective equipment was not only required by Smithfield, but was also required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in order for the defendant to have a safe facility. 

The putative class includes any hourly production employees of the defendant at any of its United States pork processing plants since April 13, 2018. The plaintiff filed one count for FLSA violations and asked for relief for herself and the putative class she hopes to represent.  Specifically, she asked for actual and liquidated damages for the unpaid wages, interest, and attorneys fees. 

Smith and five other named plaintiffs are represented by James R. Theuer PLLC and The Lazzaro Law Firm LLC