Poultry Company Hits Back at Newspaper Allegations

US - US poultry processor House of Raeford Farms, Inc. is investigating allegations by the local newspaper, The Charlotte Observer, critical of the company's workplace safety practices and hiring programmes.
calendar icon 13 February 2008
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In response to The Observer’s alleged findings, House of Raeford said that it recognises the value of all its employees and is dedicated to providing them with a safe and rewarding place to work.

"Maintaining and improving the quality and safety of our employee' workplace is a continuous priority for our company," the company said in a statement.

"In response to the article in The Charlotte Observer, we have investigated allegations presented to us earlier by the newspaper. Over the past year, we provided them with significant access to our operations and information on our safety and employee welfare programs and policies.

"We responded to allegations as presented to us by the newspaper through background responses as specific as possible while still protecting employee confidentiality. We believe it is inappropriate for the company to discuss current or former employees’ medical and employment history in a public forum."

The company said the article does not provide an accurate portrayal of the programmes, policies and practices at House of Raeford Farms or the poultry industry.

"We are disappointed that the newspaper chose to highlight allegations of a small number of former employees, many of whose cases we identified as factually incomplete or inaccurate," the company added.

House of Raeford is a family-owned operation founded in the 1940’s that has a deeply rooted tradition of valuing the contributions made by each employee.

"While we have grown rapidly over the past decade, expanding our workforce to over 5,000 employees, we have maintained concern for our employees' welfare as a core value of the company. We have supported the communities where our employees live and work with donations to schools, churches and other charitable organisations.

"Our employees have rewarded House of Raeford with their loyalty and dedication. In an industry that experiences a high turnover rate, many of our employees have worked with us for over 20 years, some even over 30 years. We also have third- and fourth-generation employees whose parents and grandparents themselves have worked for the company. We have numerous examples of employees who started as hourly production workers and are now managers and supervisors, demonstrating the career advancement opportunities available for each individual we hire.

We are proactive in looking for ways to improve our safety programmes. For example, we are participating in the newly-formed partnership with the poultry industry and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to improve our performance even more. This alliance will focus on worker safety and machinery hazards, and providing solutions to reduce worksite injuries. A similar alliance with OSHA was held a few years ago with a focus on ergonomics.

"We have also worked with OSHA through voluntary inspection programs where their officials visit and review safety in our plants. We use such visits and inspections as a means to then continuously improve our workplace safety programs. It is company policy that recordkeeping of injuries is done in accordance with OSHA guidelines and legal requirements for recording medical incidents and attention given to employees.

"Our company has seen a decrease in the rate at which injuries and illnesses occur among its workers. As of 2007, our rate of injuries per 100 full-time workers is less than the average rate for the entire food manufacturing sector. Over the past seven years, our company has reduced by half the lost-time accident rate, a reflection of our management’s constant focus on improving safety.

"When workplace injuries do occur, we use local, independent doctors in the communities where our operations are located to treat employee injuries. It is these doctors who develop the medical treatment plan for employees, including when the employee is able to return back to work and any limitations of the work they can perform. We follow the plans prescribed by these doctors to help employees return to good health. Furthermore, workplace injuries are covered by mandatory state workers compensation insurance programs administered by the states in which we operate.

"House of Raeford is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not believe in discriminating against any group of people. We are proud of the diversity of our workforce and are assertive in hiring from the pool of available applicants in our communities who have legal documentation for employment. We have policies and programs in place that follow federal requirements for verifying the eligibility of job applicants. Once hired, all employees pay state, federal, Medicare and social security taxes as these are automatically deducted from each employee's paycheck and reported to the required government agencies.

"Our commitment to the safety and general well-being of our employees remains as strong as ever – as well as our commitment to being good citizens of our communities and a valued supplier to our customers. We remain committed to maintaining and improving the quality and safety of our employees' workplace."

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