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Poultry workers get $4.8M in damages, wages after children employed illegally in dangerous jobs, DOL says

A Department of Labor investigation found children as young as 14 years old were using "razor-sharp deboning knives" on the job in a historically significant wage violation probe.
Posted at 4:02 PM, May 04, 2024

A historic Department of Labor investigation into a network of California poultry processors has led to a $4.8 million payout order for wages and damages after children were found illegally employed in dangerous situations. In one case, the Labor Department said children as young as 14 were using "razor-sharp" knives used for deboning meat.

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The agency called it one of the largest wage violation settlements ever reached for U.S. poultry workers when a judgment in a Los Angeles courtroom ordereda group of defendants — including Fu Qian Chen Lu and Bruce Shu Hua Lok — to pay millions in back wages and damages to 476 workers, the Labor Department said in a release. The defendants were also ordered to pay $221,919 in penalties.

The DOL's Wage and House Division probe into A1 Meat Solutions, JRC Culinary Group, Moon Poultry and five other businesses said employers denied packers and workers overtime wages and said payroll records were falsified in an effort to obstruct investigators in their work. Supervisors at the plants are accused of retaliating against workers once the Labor Department investigation began in January, and are accused of calling workers derogatory terms. The Labor Department also accused employers of changing employment terms on employees as a form of retaliation.

Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman said, "These violations are unacceptable and the Wage and Hour Division will continue to use all its tools to stop the exploitation of vulnerable workers."

She said, "Federal labor laws protect children from being employed in dangerous jobs and protect workers' right to be paid all of their legally earned wages."
Investigators obtained a temporary restraining order and an injunction under the Fair Labor Standards Act's hot goods provision to stop Lu and his businesses from shipping goods if they are produced by an operation that employs children illegally.

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The Labor Department said the employers used "oppressive child labor at the facility, which permanently renders produced goods as contraband — forbidden from entering commerce."
The large judgment to be paid outincludes $1.8 million in back wages and $3 million in damages for affected workers.