The U.S. Department of Labor has achieved a significant milestone in its fight against illegal labor practices by uncovering and penalizing a poultry processor in California. The company, Exclusive Poultry Inc., led by Tony Bran, now faces the payment of nearly $3.8 million in back wages, damages, and fines. The reason? Recklessly endangering young workers in Southern California.
The investigation conducted by the Wage and Hour Division revealed that Exclusive Poultry Inc. not only employed young workers, some as young as 14 years old, but also assigned them to hazardous tasks such as deboning birds with sharp knives and operating motorized lifts for pallet movement. Furthermore, the young workers were subjected to excessive working hours, thereby violating federal regulations on child labor.
The company didn’t stop there; it also took punitive measures against employees who cooperated with investigators, cutting their salaries as retaliation. These illicit tactics not only affected the workers but also demonstrated a clear lack of business ethics on the part of Exclusive Poultry Inc.
The investigation not only focused on the main company but also uncovered a network of fictitious companies created by Bran to employ workers in two poultry plants located in the City of Industry and La Puente, California. Companies like Meza Poultry LLC, Valtierra Poultry LLC, Sullon Poultry Inc., and Nollus’s Poultry LLC were identified as part of this fraudulent network.
As a result of the discovered violations, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued a consent judgment on November 16, 2023. This judgment imposes on Bran and Exclusive Poultry the payment of $3.5 million in back wages and damages to the affected workers.
In addition to economic compensation, $300,000 in punitive damages and $100,614 in back wages to retaliated workers were imposed. Employers are also required to pay $201,104 in civil fines for violations related to child labor and conscious disregard. Furthermore, Bran and Exclusive Poultry must be monitored for three years to ensure future compliance.
Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman emphasized the need to eradicate labor exploitation. “The Wage and Hour Division will continue working at all levels of the industry to prevent employers or retailers from exploiting workers, including children, for profit.”
This case underscores the importance of corporate responsibility and the need for consumers and distributors to demand written assurances regarding compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act. The industry must come together to clean up its supply chains and protect workers from illegal labor practices.