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Corteva, Dow, DuPont Rest and Meal Break California Labor Class Action

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This labor class action, brought under the California Labor Code and California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order No. 1-2001, concerns the lack of proper rest and meal periods at a Pittsburg, California plant. The defendants are a group of related chemical companies, including Corteva, Inc., E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & company, Dow Agrosciences, LLC, the Dow Chemical Co., DowDuPont (now DuPont de Nemours, Inc.), and Dow, Inc. 

The class for this action is all current and former hourly employees of the above companies who work or worked a twelve-hour rotating shift at the chemical manufacturing plant in Pittsburg, California, since December 3, 2015. 

Plaintiffs Jason Craig and Michael Ross are operators at the plant in question, which produces chemicals. They have worked at the plant for fifteen and thirteen years, respectively. Chemical production requires constant attention, and the plant solves this by having employees work twelve-hour shifts. 

During their shifts, they are never entirely off-duty. The complaint say they must “monitor the chemical production process, respond to upsets and critical events, and maintain the safe and stable operation of their units.” To do this, they are “required to remain attentive and be reachable at all times during their shifts, which includes responding to audible alarms, pages on the intercom system, and communications on their handheld radios. [They] are also required to remain in contact with supervisors and other employees working in their unit throughout their shifts.”

California laws require that workers receive ten-minute rest breaks for every four-hour work period or fraction thereof. They also require that workers receive a thirty-minute meal break for every work period that is longer than five hours and a second meal break for every work period that exceeds ten hours. 

However, because the Pittsburg workers must exercise constant attention and be continuously responsible for their units, they never receive proper off-duty breaks. They are not scheduled for legally-required ten-minute breaks and are not relieved of their duties so that they can take uninterrupted meal breaks.

While the law permits companies to make workers do without breaks when necessary, it offers a trade-off: The company must pay the workers a penalty. The penalty is an extra hour of wages for every day in which they miss a rest break and an extra hour of wages for every day in which they miss an off-duty meal break. However, the workers at the Pittsburg plant do not get these extra wages.

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