November 10, 2015

Should courts replace trials with formulas for sake of convenience?

By Anastasia P. Boden Attorney

In this Federalist Society video, I discuss the Supreme Court case Tyson Foods Inc. v. Bouaphakeo–which the Court will hear today.

In that case, a group of plaintiffs sued Tyson Foods for purportedly failing to pay them for the time they spent putting on and taking off their work clothing.  The plaintiffs worked in different positions, and the items they wore depended on their individual responsibilities and personal preferences.  Different employees chose to wear different materials, in different combinations, and to put them on at difference paces.  Tyson compensated employees for at least some of this time in different amounts, for different departments, during different years. Yet, despite the fact that Tyson’s liability could not be determined without reference to these many unique facts, the trial court certified the class.  It then imposed liability on Tyson based on the amounts owed to a sample of the class, which it then applied to the class as a whole.

Should courts allow formulas to replace trials for purposes of convenience and efficiency?  For reasons set out in PLF’s amicus brief, I think not; but I try to be fair in this video.

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