Pandemic pay that has been offered in several industries as an incentive for many essential workers during the height coronavirus outbreak has been under much scrutiny in the last several months. For example, many workers within the meat packing industry who were offered pandemic pay as a bonus for working in dangerous conditions for months on end have now noted that their employers have failed to properly pay them during this time. This is the case with employees of pork producer Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. who claimed they went unpaid for the proper overtime when working long hours. More than 30,000 workers stand to benefit from this $7,750,000 million settlement.
Specifically, this class and collective action that was filed this past August under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Illinois Minimum Wage Law Act (“IMWLA”) alleged that the company promised its workforce a “Responsibility Bonus” but failed to correctly calculate into their overtime rates as required under the law. These Responsibility Bonuses which amounted to an additional $5 per hour went unaccounted for when determining workers overtime rate of 1.5 times their hourly rate. Although the employees hourly rate increased during this time, their overtime rate did not, substantially underpaying them when working over 40 hours per week thus violating the FLSA and IMWLA. Affected employees may include any current or former nonexempt hourlyemployees who worked at Smithfield or Kansas City Sausage Co. throughout the United States and received at least one bonus payment which failed to be calculated into their overtime pay rate.
Pandemic pay and bonuses are well-deserved especially for those who quite literally risked their lives during the worst of COVID-19. However, it is equally important to make sure these essential hourly workers get paid as labor laws require when offered bonuses or additional pay by their employers. If you feel you may have experienced similar pay issues when working during the height of the pandemic call our employment law firm, Fitapelli & Schaffer, LLP, for a free and confidential consultation. We can be reached at (212) 300-0375 or via our website which provides additional helpful information regarding your rights.