Five Brothers 1, based in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and Whitmore Poultry, based in Orange, Massacusetts, admitted to improperly classifying workers as independent contractors for their work at the Hillandale facility, the labor agency stated in a press release. Both companies provided hundreds of workers for Hillandale.
Many of the workers employed by Whitmore Poultry were minors between the ages of 14 and 17, the state agency stated.
Five Brothers 1 was fined $180,600, while Whitmore Poultry was fined $90,000. Hillandale Farms was not fined, because the Connecticut law holds the employer of record responsible, rather than the company that hired the subcontractors.
According to Thomas J. Wydra, director of the Department’s Wage and Workplace Standards Division, classifying workers as independent contractors results in the employer paying lower worker compensation premiums, taxes and unemployment insurance costs.
“These business practices are an unacceptable way to operate in Connecticut,” Wydra said. “Every working person is entitled to proper workplace protections, and taxpayers should not be burdened with costs that are the legal responsibility of employers. Our staff is committed to educating both employers and employees about these laws, and enforcing them to help ensure a legitimate and safe workplace environment.”
During an October11 inspection at the Bozrah plant, investigators determined that upwards of 34 employees of Five Brothers 1 were being misclassified as independent contractors. A stopwork order was immediately issued to Five Brothers 1, and the company was cited for 602 violations of knowingly misrepresenting the employees as independent contractors.
The violations represent each worker for each week that work was performed and the employee was paid in unreported cash payments. Five Brothers also was cited for failing to maintain Connecticut Workers Compensation Insurance for the employees.
Investigators, including from the state Department of Children and Families, returned to the plant on Oct. 30 after a complaint that minors were being improperly employed there by Whitmore Poultry.
Investigators observed a passenger van arrive and drop off 16 young workers, after the plant’s full-time staff had left for the day. The ensuing investigation determined that the workers, including minors, were being misclassified as independent contractors. They had been working at the Bozrah plant for Whitmore Poultry for approximately eight months and were being paid in cash on a weekly basis.
A stop-work order was immediately issued to Whitmore Poultry for their business operation at the plant, and the company was cited for 512 violations of knowingly misrepresenting the employees as independent contractors.
The stop-work order was released against Whitmore Poultry on October 31 and against Five Brothers 1 on November 1 after they demonstrated compliance with relevant labor laws.
Hillandale Farms, according to the Egg Industry Top Companies rankings, is the fourth largest egg company in the United States, with a flock of 20 million hens. The company in 2016 announced plans to convert its Bozrah operations to cage-free egg production.