After a court ordered Tyson Foods to pay $5.8 million to workers in overtime pay in a class action suit, the food giant appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. Based on a recent hour-long argument session, say experienced court-watchers, the justices don’t appear to be receptive to Tyson’s claims that the lower court used an illegal method to determine damages. The company says the method in question, known as statistical averages, implies that all member of the group of 3,300 workers are identical to average employees.
Tyson contends the statistical average method mirrors the “trial by formula” reasoning that formed the basis of the high court’s rejection of an earlier major class action case. In that lawsuit, workers sued Walmart for denying them equal pay and promotion opportunities. The rejection of the case stemmed from the fact that the unfair treatment affected some workers more than others. In other words, their employment injuries weren’t uniform. While Tyson hopes the precedent this ruling set will lead to a Supreme Court victory, the justices appeared skeptical of the argument.
Both business advocates and consumer advocates are closely watching this case and awaiting the ruling. Those on the business side desire a Tyson victory, as it will put the brakes on what they feel are frivolous class action lawsuits. Conversely, consumer and worker advocates want a Tyson defeat, because they contend group claims hold companies accountable.