A federal court found Birdsboro Kosher Farms Corp. in contempt for failing to pay $162,359 in penalties after an inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found numerous safety hazards, including willful, serious and repeat violations.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's Oct. 19, 2022, decision is the latest legal action spurred by two separate 2016 safety and health inspections at the Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, poultry processing facility. The inspections led OSHA to issue citations for violations related to federal lockout/tagout, hearing conservation and personal protective equipment standards.
The company contested the citations with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Following a full hearing on the citations' merits, an administrative law judge affirmed the initial citations in a Sept. 23, 2019, decision that became the commission's final order on Oct. 22, 2019. Birdsboro Kosher Farms petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for review, and the Secretary of Labor filed a cross-application for enforcement.
"OSHA's safety and health standards protect workers and ensure their jobs don't expose them to needless risks," said Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. "Employers who ignore their responsibility to provide a safe work environment or who deny their legal obligations will be held to account by the U.S. Department of Labor."
In December 2020, the Court of Appeals denied Birdsboro's petition for review and granted the Secretary's cross-application for enforcement. The court ordered Birdsboro Kosher Farms to abate any unabated violations from the citations, submit abatement documentation to OSHA, and pay the remaining penalties.
Birdsboro, according to OSHA, ignored the court's order, failing to pay the penalties or provide abatement certification. A subsequent OSHA inspection revealed violations of some of the same standards underlying the court's 2020 order and enforcement decree.
In response, the Secretary of Labor filed a petition on March 18, 2022, for judgment of civil contempt. The court granted the petition and ordered Birdsboro to pay the outstanding penalties of $162,369 plus interest and fees or agree to a payment plan, and certify abatement of the violations, all within 20 days. Failure to comply will subject Birdsboro to sanctions the court deems necessary to compel compliance with its judgment.
"The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has reaffirmed that Birdsboro Kosher Farms' actions violated federal law," said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. "The Department of Labor will continue to use every resource available to ensure workers are safe on the job, including holding employers accountable when they violate laws intended to protect workers."