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California Poultry Processor Settles Child Labor Violations, Pays $3.8 Million in Back Wages, Damages, and Penalties

by Anna

A California poultry processor and supplier to major supermarket chains, including Ralphs, ALDI, Grocery Outlet, and SYSCO Corp., has agreed to pay a substantial settlement of nearly $3.8 million following investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The Exclusive Poultry Inc. and related companies, owned by Tony Bran, faced allegations of serious illegal employment practices, including endangering young workers in Southern California.

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The investigation revealed that The Exclusive Poultry employed children as young as 14 to perform hazardous tasks such as deboning poultry with sharp knives and operating power-driven lifts to move pallets. Additionally, the young workers were subjected to excessive working hours, violating federal child labor regulations. The company was also accused of retaliating against employees who cooperated with investigators by cutting their wages.

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The consent judgment, entered by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Nov. 16, 2023, addresses these violations and mandates The Exclusive Poultry and Tony Bran to pay $3.5 million in back wages and damages to affected workers. This total includes $300,000 in punitive damages and $100,614 in back wages for workers who experienced retaliatory conduct. Furthermore, the employers are required to pay $201,104 in civil money penalties for child labor and willful violations.

To ensure future compliance, the judgment mandates Bran and The Exclusive Poultry to retain a monitor for three years. The monitor will oversee compliance and implement a hiring preference for workers previously terminated following the department’s investigation. This preference stipulates that these workers must be offered employment first before considering other hires.

The Exclusive Poultry supplies poultry products to various distributors, including Grocery Outlet, SYSCO Corp., ALDI, Nestle Purina, Royal Canin U.S.A. Inc., and Ralphs Grocery Company. The Department of Labor encourages downstream distributors and customers to take steps to ensure compliance with Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requirements.

This settlement is part of the Department of Labor’s ongoing efforts to combat child labor abuses and wage theft in the poultry and meat processing industries. It follows recent actions against other companies in the sector, emphasizing the commitment to holding entities accountable for violating federal child labor laws. Workers who believe they may be owed back wages are encouraged to contact the West Covina District Office.

Child labor laws play a crucial role in protecting young workers from exploitation, and the Department of Labor remains steadfast in its commitment to enforcing these laws and preventing workplace tragedies.

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