A California based poultry processor and supplier was discovered to be employing children as young as 14 years old to debone poultry, using sharp knives as well as operating power-driven lifts to move pallets, according to a release from the Department of Labor.
Investigators found that The Exclusive Poultry Inc., which is based out of Los Angeles, was engaging in illegal employment practices. The report also implicated other companies owned by Tony Bran, who supply goods to Ralphs, ALDI, Grocery Outlet, and SYSCO Corp.
It was also found that the company retaliates against employees for cooperating with the investigation by cutting their wages, and that the company failed to pay workers their required wages, including overtime wages.
Illegal child labor is on the rise
The investigation included two poultry plants in the City of Industry and La Puente, California, as well as front companies set up by Bran in order to employ workers at these plants. The front companies listed included Meza Poultry LLC, Valtierra Poultry LLC, Sullen Poultry Inc, and Nollus’s Poultry LLC.
After finding these violations, the department’s Office of the Solicitor obtained a temporary restraining order for the U.S. District Court which prevents the company from shipping into commerce any “hot goods.”
The company has agreed to pay nearly $3.8 million, broken down into $3.5 million in back wages and damages to affected workers, $300,000 in punitive damages, $100,614 in back wages to workers who face retaliatory conduct, and $201,104 in civil money penalties for the child labor and willful violations.
Finally, the judgment requires Bran and the company to retain a monitor for three years in order to ensure future compliance to the law, as well as a hiring preference, meaning they must first offer employment to workers fired following the department’s search before they can hire others.