updated 11/8/2005 11:19:07 AM ET 2005-11-08T16:19:07

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that companies must pay plant workers for the time it takes to change into protective clothing and walk to their work stations.

The case involved a plant now owned by Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc.

The issue was one of two that justices settled in a pair of unanimous decisions, the first rulings under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts in the new fall term. Roberts did not write either one.

In a defeat for business, the court said that while employers aren't required to pay workers for time spent changing clothes, they must pay for the donning of "integral" gear and the time it takes workers to then walk to the production area.

The court, in a ruling by Justice John Paul Stevens, upheld a decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of workers at a Tyson Fresh Meats processing plant in Pasco, Wash.

The ruling that was upheld ordered the Tyson plant, formerly owned by IBP Inc., to pay $3.1 million to 815 workers in Pasco, Wash., for the time spent dressing.

In a second ruling, the justices said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should reconsider whether federal officials can be sued for negligence over an accident in an Arizona copper mine.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing that opinion, said the appeals court ruled too broadly in allowing the lawsuit by two men who were seriously injured in 2000 when a nine-ton rock slab fell from the ceiling of the Mission Underground Mine.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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