DOL: Processor owes $4.8 million for child labor violations

According to the judgement, the poultry enterprise illegally employed children as young as 14 years old to debone poultry using sharp knives, a violation of child labor regulators.

Litigation Gavel Scales
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A group of owners and operators of a network of California poultry processors and distributors will pay more $4.8 million in back wages and damages to 476 works and $221,919 in penalties, according to a consent judgement  released by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

The group must also forfeit up to $1 million in profits earned by goods tainted by oppressive child labor and pay $1 million for their child labor violations.

“When we find an employer has put a child’s well-being at risk in return for profit, the Department of Labor will use all available tools to seek to remove children from harm’s way and prevent future violations, including stopping the shipment or sale of goods located where children are being exploited,” explained solicitor of labor Seema Nanda.

“The court’s disgorgement remedy recognizes that no employer should profit off the shipment of contraband and the backs of children.

Members of the network included A1 Meat Solutions Inc., Lotus Plus Inc., Lotus Poultry Inc., Farmers Process Inc., Durfee Poultry Inc., L & Y Food Inc., JRC Culinary Group Inc. and Moon Poultry Inc.

The owner’s group works with distributors who supply chicken to Diamond Green Diesel, Diamond Pet Foods, Foster Farms, Mars Pet Care, Superior Food and several Las Vegas hotels, including Caesar’s Palace and the Mirage Hotel and Casino.

Child labor, wage violations

According to the judgement, the poultry enterprise illegally employed children as young as 14 years old to debone poultry using sharp knives, a violation of child labor regulators. In addition, the DOL investigation found the group denied overtime wages to meatcutters and packers, falsifying records to obstruct the probe.

Supervisors at facilities belonging to the poultry network retaliated against the workers as well, saying workers “put the noose around their own necks” for talking to the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. Lawyers for the poultry enterprise also refused to respond to DOL subpoenas and attempted to obstruct the investigation, the press release said.

California’s child labor crackdown

In November 2023, the DOL announced a similar penalty against another California processing group. The Exclusive Poultry Inc. and associated front companies owned by Tony Bran were fined $3.8 million in back wages, damages and penalties.

That group was charged with employing children as young as 14 to work with sharp knives and power-driven lifts, forcing child employees to work excessive hours in violation of child labor violations, withholding required wages and overtime pay, intentionally omitting employees from payroll records and cutting wages in retaliation for cooperating with DOL investigators.

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