DOL Cites Chicken-Processing Plants for Major Violations

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

November 24, 2020

Three poultry companies that operate chicken-processing plants in Mississippi paid their employees below the minimum wage and incorrectly calculated their overtime pay, the US Department of Labor (DOL) has announced.

The DOL's investigations also found the following violations:

  • Pearl River Foods made illegal deductions from some employees' paychecks for uniform items like gloves and aprons, causing their pay rates to fall below the federal minimum wage;
  • Koch Foods failed to include production bonuses in employees' regular pay rates when calculating overtime (by federal law overtime pay should factor in bonuses as well as workers' hourly rates); and
  • Koch Foods violated the Fair Labor Standards Act's child labor requirements by employing a 15-year-old to work in meat processing, a prohibited occupation for workers under age 18.

The DOL also cited those two companies and Peco Foods in its investigations for failing to pay final paychecks to multiple workers, resulting in minimum wage violations. The processing plants have paid nearly $46,000 in back pay to 129 employees to resolve the violations.

"Employers must pay their employees all of the wages they have earned for all of the hours they have worked, no later than their regularly scheduled payday," said DOL Wage and Hour Division District Director Audrey Hall in Jackson, Mississippi. "Child labor laws exist to ensure that when young people work the work does not jeopardize their health and well-being."

Last year, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeted several Mississippi poultry plants in what was called the largest statewide enforcement action in the nation's history.

In August, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi announced the indictments of four poultry plant executives, including two who worked at Pearl River Foods. The indicted executives reportedly worked as managers, supervisors or in HR.