The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit on behalf of workers of La Puente poultry processors who failed to pay overtime wages. According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Labor, the agency found that the group of La Puente poultry processing employers had committed egregious overtime wage violations.
Their chicken products had been distributed throughout Los Angeles County and beyond, but the company was alleged to be violating the workplace rights of its employees.
Overtime Wage Violations
The lawsuit filed by the DOL in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against employers including KP Poultry, TL Foods, and Express Poultry Services says the division’s investigation revealed that the companies failed to pay proper overtime wages to employees who worked up to 70 hours a week. The lawsuit alleges that the companies violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay proper wages to workers they hired to cut, debone and pack chicken.
The lawsuit also states that the employers retaliated against workers who attempted to speak up for their rights guaranteed under the law. In July 2021, a California court approved a consent judgment in which KP Poultry and another employer admitted to FLSA violations and agreed to pay $200,000 in back wages and liquidated damages (double damages) to 103 employees who were denied overtime pay.
Also, the court forbade the employers from future FLSA violations including retaliating against their employees. In early October, the court determined that two other processors for FLSA violations including failure to pay overtime. The department’s litigation against the remaining defendants is ongoing. DOL officials said the workers who do cutting and packing in these processing plants face a physically demanding and dangerous work environment.
The workers were forced to accept low wages by employers who told them to forge their timesheets to hide overtime hours and demanded that workers pay for knives, gloves, aprons, hairnets, and boots workers needed to do their jobs. Workers were also threatened with retaliation for cooperating with a federal investigation.
Justice for Workers
As Los Angeles wage and hour attorneys, we are relieved to note that the DOL is pursuing these unscrupulous business owners for violating the nation’s and state’s labor laws, specifically overtime laws. Workers have protections under state labor laws regardless of their immigration status. It is indeed outrageous that these workers who help put food on the table for millions of Southern California residents were denied wages that were due to them and retaliated against for raising the issue. We hope these employers are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
If you have been denied overtime pay or if your employer is committing minimum wage or other wage and hour violations, you may be able to file a wage and hour lawsuit or join a class action lawsuit. An experienced wage and hour attorney will be able to help you better understand your rights under the law.