After placing a preliminary injunction against California poultry processors accused of violating child labor laws, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has fined The Exclusive Poultry Inc. and associated front companies owned by Tony Bran $3.8 million in back wages, damages and penalties.
“The Exclusive Poultry and owner Tony Bran willfully withheld workers’ hard-earned wages, endangered young workers and retaliated against employees to conceal their wrongdoing,” said DOL Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman. “The Wage and Hour Division will continue to work at every level of the industry to prevent employers or retailers from exploiting workers, including children, for profit.”
The DOL’s list of charges
· Employed children as young as 14 to work with sharp knives and power-driven lifts.
· Forced child employees to work excessive hours violating child labor regulations.
· Withheld required wages and overtime pay.
· Intentionally omit employees from payroll records.
· Retaliated against employees who cooperated with DOL investigators by cutting wages.
Penalties for violations
Of the $3.8 million fine, $3.5 million will go to back wages and damages, $300,000 to punitive damages, $100,614 to employees who were retaliated against, and $201,104 to civil penalties.
Bran will be required to have a monitor on site for three years to ensure compliance and oversee hiring as Bran will also be required to prioritize hiring those who were fired in retaliation.
“Employers who violate the FLSA [Food Labor Standards Act] and their downstream distributors and customers should be on notice that we will use all tools at our disposal to protect workers, regardless of age and immigration status,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “We encourage workers to come forward and report employers that withhold workers’ wages or put their safety at risk.”
The Exclusive Poultry operated two processing facilities in City of Industry and La Puente, California, and Bran’s front companies included Meza Poultry LLC, Valtierra Poultry LLC, Sullon Poultry Inc. and Nollus’s Poultry LLC., which supplied to supermarkets like Ralphs, ALDI, and SYSCO Corp.