The owner and operators of three poultry processing facilities in Los Angeles are in hot water with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for employing teen workers to use sharp knives to debone poultry.
A preliminary injunction filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California forbids the three facilities owned and operated as one business under Tony Elvis Bran and his associates from further violating child labor 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. “These employers endangered children, stole their wages and threatened them with retaliation if they spoke to investigators about their illegal activity.”
The injunction also prohibits Bran and his company from:
- failing to pay overtime to workers
- threatening and retaliating against workers
- obstructing federal investigators, and
- shipping “hot” goods.
This is the result of an investigation by the DOL Wage and Hour Division that found “rampant child labor and wage violations” at all three facilities.
The Wage and Hour Division determined that Bran, Karen Rios, Juan Valtierra, Javier Meza and Jacqueline Garcia operated their companies as a single enterprise made up of The Exclusive Poultry Inc., Valtierra Poultry LLC and Meza Poultry LLC.
That enterprise directed its teen workers to use sharp knives to debone and cut poultry, a hazardous occupation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The teen workers were also allowed to work longer and at times not permitted by federal child labor laws. Further, the enterprise failed to pay overtime wages and directed minors to work in prohibited facilities.
Wage and Hour Division investigators discovered that Bran and the other employers interfered with the investigation by threatening and retaliating against employees who raised concerns or tried to exercise their rights under federal law. They also illegally shipped what the DOL considers hot goods produced in violation of overtime and child labor laws.
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 labor was used or handled by workers not paid overtime.
More information on federal child labor laws and teen workers can be found here.