US court finds three poultry processors in violation of labour laws

Department of Labor found children working dangerous jobs, unlawful hours
calendar icon 24 October 2023
clock icon 3 minute read

The US Department of Labour has obtained a preliminary injunction forbidding three poultry processing companies in La Puente and City of Industry, California and their principals from violating child labour laws, failing to pay overtime, threatening and retaliating against workers, obstructing a federal investigation and shipping “hot” goods, according to a government-issued press release.

The injunction by the US District Court for the Central District of California follows an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found rampant child labour and wage violations at these facilities owned and operated by Tony Elvis Bran and The Exclusive Poultry Inc.

The division determined Bran — along with Karen Rios, Juan Valtierra, Javier Meza and Jacqueline Garcia — operated a single enterprise comprised of The Exclusive Poultry Inc., Valtierra Poultry LLC and Meza Poultry LLC that directed employees under 18 years-old to use sharp knives to debone and cut poultry and employed children to work longer and at times not permitted by the law. They also directed minors to work in prohibited facilities and failed to pay overtime wages, all violations of the Fair Labour Standards Act.

Investigators also found the employers interfered with their probe by threatening and retaliating against employees who raised concerns or tried to exercise their legal rights.

The division cited the employer for violations related to wage payments, child labour, recordkeeping, retaliation against employees and obstruction of a federal investigation. The employers also illegally shipped “hot” goods in this case, poultry goods produced in violation of overtime and child labour laws.

“Tony Elvis Bran and his associates directed young workers — including employees under age 16 — to work full time and not go to school and to engage in dangerous jobs, including deboning poultry in meat coolers,” said Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Ruben Rosalez in San Francisco. “These employers endangered children, stole their wages and threatened them with retaliation if they spoke to investigators about their illegal activity.”

Specifically, the court’s injunction forbids Bran, his companies and Rios, Valtierra, Meza and Garcia from violating child labour regulations, harassing and threatening labour investigators or employees and from taking retaliatory actions such as terminating employees or reducing their work hours.

Under the FLSA’s hot goods provisions, the injunction prevents Bran and his companies from shipping any products processed in plants in the last 30 days where oppressive child labour was used or handled by workers not paid overtime.

“When employers build a business based on wage theft or violations of child labour laws, goods they produce become illegal contraband that cannot be shipped into commerce,” added regional solicitor of labour Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. “The Solicitor’s Office will use all tools it has to prevent and halt the shipment of such ‘hot goods,’ which insidiously harms workers and competition in the marketplace.”

The division provides many resources to help employers comply with child labour laws. Its YouthRules! initiative promotes positive and safe work experiences for teens by providing information about protections for young workers to youth, parents, employers, and educators. Through this initiative, the US Department of Labor and its partners promote developmental work experiences that help prepare young workers to enter the workforce. The Wage and Hour Division has also published Seven Child Labour Best Practices for Employers to help employers comply with the law.

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