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Christine Curry, et al., On Behalf of Themselves and Others v. Kraft Foods Global

January 12, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall


Plaintiffs Christine Curry, Todd Schiltz, Anthony Thompson, David Lenoci, Thomas Sheridan, Terry T. Gibson, Margaret Key, Felix Kaskie, Estela Diehl, and Robert Kmiecik (collectively "Plaintiffs"), on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, brought this class action suit against Kraft Foods Global, Inc. for failing to pay Plaintiffs for time spent donning and doffing protective equipment before and after their work shift. Plaintiffs claim that Kraft violated the Illinois Minimum Wage Act (Count I) and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (Count II). This Court previously held that section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act preempted state law and brought the case within the jurisdiction of the federal courts. (Doc. 39, "Remand Order"). Plaintiffs moved for class certification, which this Court granted. (Doc. 70). Kraft now moves for summary judgment against the Plaintiffs. (Doc. 74). Kraft asks that its motion be decided solely on the grounds provided by section 203(o) of the Fair Labor Standards Act. For the reasons set forth below, Kraft's motion for summary judgment is granted.

I. Material Undisputed Facts

Kraft owns and operates a manufacturing facility in Naperville, Illinois where it manufactures Triscuit brand crackers. (Def 56.1 Facts ¶ 8)*fn1 . Kraft acquired the Naperville Facility from Nabisco in the mid-1990's and has operated it since that time. (Id. ¶ 9). Currently Kraft employs 165 hourly workers at the Naperville Facility, all of whom are required to don particular clothing before starting their shift and doff those items after completing their shift. (Id. ¶ 10).

All employees at the Naperville Facility are issued identification badged which they use to clock in and out at the beginning and end of their shift. (Id. ¶ 13). Employees park directly behind the Facility and once inside the Facility they may proceed to the men's or women's locker rooms or to the cafeteria to store their food. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16).

Hourly employees are required to wear certain clothing at all times while on the production floor. (Id. ¶ 17). This includes shoes, safety glasses, hearing protection, hairnets, beard nets, Kraft-issued t-shirt or snap shirt, and work pants. (Id.). Depending on the location of their work on the production floor, some hourly employees must also wear bump caps. (Id. ¶ 18). The shoes, shirts, and pants must be donned and doffed at the Facility. (Id. ¶ 19). The remaining items may be donned at the Facility, but do not need to be. (Id.). Employees are provided with lockers in which they can store their clothing. (Id. 20). Employees may get new earplugs and hair/beard nets at stations located in hallways leading to the production floor. (Id. ¶ 21). However, employees are not required to don new earplugs and hair/beard nets everyday. (Id.).

The hourly employees, which all of the Plaintiffs are, are represented by one of two Unions:

(a) the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, Local No. 1 ("BCTGM"), or (b) the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFLCIO, Local 1202 ("IAM"). (Id. ¶ 24). Since Kraft took over the Facility it has entered into a number of collective bargaining agreements with the BCTGM and IAM. (Id. ¶ 25). Plaintiffs admit that the "Work Time claimed herein is not compensable under the collective bargaining agreements pursuant to which the plaintiffs and members of the putative class are employed." (Id. ¶ 26).

The BCTGM and Kraft have negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that applies to all hourly Kraft employees who are members of the Union. (Id. ¶ 27). The current CBA between Kraft and the BCTGM applies from April 27, 2009 through April 29, 2013. (Id. 28). This CBA does not contain any requirement that Kraft pay hourly employees for donning and doffing time. (Id. ¶ 29). The predecessor CBAs, effective since Kraft purchased the Facility, have all likewise not provided for such payments. (Id.). The CBA provides for "normal and regular hours of work," the availability of overtime pay, and the rate of pay for Saturdays and Sundays. (Id. ¶ 30). The CBA also contains a comprehensive three-step grievance procedure for employees who wish to grieve any differences or disputes that arise. (Id. ¶ 31).

The IAM and Kraft have also negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that applies to all hourly Kraft employees who are members of that Union. (Id. ¶ 36). The current CBA applies from June 13, 2009 through June 15, 2013. (Id. ¶ 37). This CBA is a continuation of the prior CBA that was in effect from June 10, 2006 through June 13, 2009. (Id.). The current CBA does not require Kraft to pay for any donning or doffing time. (Id. ¶ 38). Indeed, no CBA between IAM and Kraft since Kraft acquired the plant has required payment for donning or doffing. (Id.). Like the BCTGM CBA, the IAM CBA provides for regular work hours and overtime. (Id. ¶ 39). Also like the BCTGM CBA, the IAM CBA contains a three-step grievance procedure. (Id. ¶ 41).

Each of the named Plaintiffs was familiar with the three-step grievance procedures set forth in the CBAs. (Id. ¶ 46). None, however, exhausted their administrative remedies by grieving the clothing issue in the manner set forth in the CBAs. (Id. ¶ 47).

Since the time it acquired the Facility in the mid-1990's, Kraft has never paid its hourly employees for donning or doffing time. (Id. ¶ 50). Even prior to Kraft's acquisition of the Facility, hourly employees there were not paid for donning or doffing time. (Id. ¶ 51). One of the Plaintiffs, Terry Gibson, began working at the Facility in 1975 and testified that he never has been paid for donning or doffing time. (Id. ¶ 52). The other named Plaintiffs testified along the same lines. (Id. ¶¶ 53-54).*fn2

II. The Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. See Bennington v. Caterpillar Inc., 275 F.3d 654, 658 (7th Cir. 2001); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). However, on summary judgment the Court will limits its analysis of the facts to that evidence that is supported by the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements properly before the Court. Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Tr., 233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000). Where a proposed statement of fact is supported by the record and not adequately rebutted, for purposes of summary judgment the Court will accept that statement as true. An adequate rebuttal requires a citation to specific support in the record; an unsubstantiated denial is not adequate. See Albiero v. City of Kankakee, 246 F.3d 927, 933 (7th Cir. 2001); Drake ...

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