Poultry processors pay $4.8 million for hiring children as young as 14 to work dangerous jobs

Poultry processors pay $4.8 million for hiring children as young as 14 to work dangerous jobs

May 6, 2024
In addition, the employers were denying overtime wages to poultry- and red meatcutters and packers, and falsified payroll records.

An investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has discovered that a network of California poultry processors and distributors was hiring children as young as 14 years old to use sharp knives to debone poultry, which violates federal child labor laws. In addition, the employers were denying overtime wages to poultry- and red meatcutters and packers, and falsified payroll records. The businesses in question include A1 Meat Solutions Inc., Lotus Plus Inc., Lotus Poultry Inc., Farmers Process Inc., Durfee Poultry Inc., L & Y Food Inc., JRC Culinary Group Inc. and Moon Poultry Inc.

Once the investigation began earlier this year, facility supervisors started to retaliate against workers who spoke to investigators. The employees were called derogatory slurs, and their terms of employment were changed.

A consent judgement entered in a federal court in Los Angeles ordered Fu Qian Chen Lu, Bruce Shu Hua Lok and others as owners and operators to pay $4.8 million in back wages and damages to 476 affected workers. Additionally, the employers must pay $221,919 in penalties, give up $1 million in profits for selling goods created with the aid of child labor, and pay a $171,919 penalty for child labor violations. According to the DOL, this is one of the largest wage violation settlements ever reached for U.S. poultry workers. Lu, Lok, and their associates are permanently forbidden from future Fair Labor Standards Act violations, and they also agreed to strong remedial measures to ensure future compliance.

What people are saying

In a recent quote, Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda said, “When we find an employer has put a child’s well-being at risk in return for profit, the Department of Labor will use all available tools to seek to remove children from harm’s way and prevent future violations, including stopping the shipment or sale of goods located where children are being exploited. The court’s disgorgement remedy recognizes that no employer should profit off the shipment of contraband and the backs of children.”

Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman added, “Federal labor laws protect children from being employed in dangerous jobs and protect workers’ right to be paid all of their legally earned wages. The employers in this case illegally employed children, some as young as 14 years old, to work with extremely sharp-edged knives to quickly debone poultry and denied hundreds of workers nearly $2 million in overtime wages. These violations are unacceptable, and the Wage and Hour Division will continue to use all its tools to stop the exploitation of vulnerable workers.”

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Learn more about the U.S. Department of Labor

DOL Releases Annual Worst Forms of Child Labor Report
The report includes an overview of 131 countries child labor situations including trafficking, debt bondage, forced labor and hazardous work.

DOL Provides Grants to Promote Workplace Safety
Grants totaling $12.7 million were given to 100 non-profit organizations to support education and training to help workers and employers recognize serious workplace hazards.

DOL Taking Steps to Combat Exploitative Child Labor
A co-ordinated federal effort to protect children from exploitative situations following a 69% increase in findings of illegal child labor between 2018 and 2022.

About the Author

Alexis Gajewski | Senior Content Strategist

Alexis Gajewski has over 15 years of experience in the maintenance, reliability, operations, and manufacturing space. She joined Plant Services in 2008 and works to bring readers the news, insight, and information they need to make the right decisions for their plants. Alexis also authors “The Lighter Side of Manufacturing,” a blog that highlights the fun and innovative advances in the industrial sector. 

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