American Sugar Refining failed to pay Ohio production workers for pre-shift prep work, suit claims

A proposed class action lawsuit alleges that American Sugar Refining, Inc. failed to pay employees at its Cleveland production facility for time spent preparing food handling and putting on and taking off protective gear.

The 11-page case specifically claims that the defendant, owner of Domino Sugar, among other companies, requires workers at its Ohio production facility to wash their hands and put on sanitary clothing and other gear before to start each shift, but does not pay them for time spent doing so. Likewise, workers are required to clock in before removing their sanitary clothing and protective gear at the end of each shift, the suit states.

Depending on the case, time spent on hygienic practices before handling food and putting on and taking off required clothing and equipment is compensable working time under the Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act of Ohio. The lawsuit says that because American Sugar Refining workers normally work more than 40 hours per week, the defendant owes them unpaid overtime for the approximately 10 to 15 minutes they spend per shift on these activities.

The lawsuit was brought by an American Sugar Refining worker who claims that because he and other employees work in direct contact with food, food contact surfaces or food packaging, they must comply with certain hygiene practices, including washing hands before starting work and each time they return from a break, putting on outer clothing that protects against food contamination, and wearing hair nets and face coverings beards.

Depending on the case, these preparation activities are “integral and indispensable” to the work of employees and cannot be avoided if they want to do their job properly. As such, the time spent on these activities is considered compensable work time under Ohio law, according to the lawsuit.

Depending on the case, workers at American Sugar Refining should have been paid for each hour worked between their first main activity of the day, which was putting on sanitary clothing, and their last main activity, which was- i.e. remove their protective clothing.

The lawsuit seeks to represent current and former hourly employees of American Sugar Refining who worked in Ohio and were involved in the manufacturing, packaging or handling of food or food products and were required to don (put on) or remove (remove) sanitary clothing, and who has worked 40 hours or more in a work week at any time during the past two years and up to the final disposition of this case.

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