Court Enjoins Southern California Poultry Processors Over Child Labor

The employers threatened and retaliated against employees who raised concerns.

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LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a preliminary injunction forbidding three poultry processing companies in La Puente and City of Industry and their principals from violating child labor laws, failing to pay overtime, threatening and retaliating against workers, obstructing a federal investigation and shipping “hot” goods. 

The injunction by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California follows an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found rampant child labor and wage violations at these facilities owned and operated by Tony Elvis Bran and The Exclusive Poultry Inc.

The division determined Bran — along with Karen Rios, Juan Valtierra, Javier Meza and Jacqueline Garcia — operated a single enterprise comprised of The Exclusive Poultry Inc., Valtierra Poultry LLC and Meza Poultry LLC that directed employees under 18 years-old to use sharp knives to debone and cut poultry and employed children to work longer and at times not permitted by the law. They also directed minors to work in prohibited facilities and failed to pay overtime wages, all violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Investigators also found the employers interfered with their probe by threatening and retaliating against employees who raised concerns or tried to exercise their legal rights.

The division cited the employer for violations related to wage payments, child labor, recordkeeping, retaliation against employees and obstruction of a federal investigation. The employers also illegally shipped “hot” goods in this case, poultry goods produced in violation of overtime and 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 in San Francisco. “These employers endangered children, stole their wages and threatened them with retaliation if they spoke to investigators about their illegal activity.”

Specifically, the court’s injunction forbids Bran, his companies and Rios, Valtierra, Meza and Garcia from violating child labor regulations, harassing and threatening labor investigators or employees and from taking retaliatory actions such as terminating employees or reducing their work hours. 

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. 

“When employers build a business based on wage theft or violations of child labor laws, goods they produce become illegal contraband that cannot be shipped into commerce,” added Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. “The Solicitor’s Office will use all tools it has to prevent and halt the shipment of such ‘hot goods,’ which insidiously harms workers and competition in the marketplace.”

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