A California poultry supplier will have to pay nearly $3.8 million in back wages, damages, and penalties after the U.S. Department of Labor found the company to be in violation of child labor laws.
Exclusive Poultry Inc. supplies poultry to supermarkets and food distributors, including Ralphs, Aldi, Grocery Outlet, and SYSCO Corp.
Investigators determined that the Industry, Calif.-based company had workers as young as 14 at two poultry plants in Industry and La Puente, Calif., and that the company had other violations, including using improper techniques to debone poultry, operating power-driven lifts to move pallets, and scheduling workers for excessive hours.
The supplier also failed to pay overtime wages to workers, the Dept. of Labor found.
The judgment also requires The Exclusive Poultry to show a hiring preference for those workers they fired following the department’s search of the poultry plants.
A temporary restraining order and injunction were put in place to prevent Exclusive Poultry to prevent the shipment of any “hot takes,” which is poultry produced in violation of the Fair Labors Standard Act and any goods from a location the Dept. of Labor observed child labor.
“The department will not hesitate to invoke the hot goods provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act — including perishable goods — to combat the scourges of wage theft and child labor in our economy,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “Employers who violate the [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. We encourage workers to come forward and report employers that withhold workers’ wages or put their safety at risk.”
Exclusive Poultry and the supplier’s owner Tony Bran are both subject to a consent judgment entered by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California following the investigation and litigation by the Department of Labor.
The agency found that Bran set up several front companies — Meza Poultry LLC, Valtierra Poultry LLC, Sullon Poultry Inc., and Nollus’s Poultry LLC — to employ the underage workers at the two plants.
Exclusive Poultry and Bran will also be monitored over the next three years to ensure future compliance, the Dept. of Labor found.