Production workers at the Kraft foods plant in Madison, Wisconsin are required to wear protective gear and clothing to ensure sanitary conditions. They are not allowed to take these items home, and since 1985 Kraft has not paid its workers for the time it takes to get to these items, put them on and take them off.
1500 union workers at the Kraft plant filed suit to force Kraft to pay them wages for the time it takes to “don and doff” these items. The workers brought claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state law wage and hours statutes (secs. 103.02 and 109.03). The focus of the lawsuit was whether Kraft could require its workers to wear this special gear and not pay them for the time it took to put it on and take it off. Kraft attempted to have the suit thrown out of court three times, and the court refused.
Attorneys from Lawton Cates negotiated a partial settlement of the lawsuit with Kraft. After analyzing the time it took to complete the “donning and doffing” of the required gear with a team of experts, the parties agreed that the damages were in excess of $2,000,000.00. The parties also agreed that the claim would encompass wages owed for the two years prior to the filing of the lawsuit until the claim was resolved. Kraft has appealed the district court’s ruling. The case now goes to the 7th circuit court of appeals.