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News Release

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.


Employment Standards Administration

ESA Press Release: U.S. Department of Labor Seeks Back Pay for Poultry Workers [06/16/1999]

For more information call: 202-693-4650

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed lawsuits in four states seeking overtime pay for more than 200 workers on chicken-catching crews at poultry processing plants in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas.

"Workers should have confidence that they will receive the money they are entitled to for the work that they do," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "For low-wage workers overtime pay is critical. We tried hard to resolve this issue, but in the end concluded that the only way to recover back wages for these workers and guarantee compliance with the law in the future was to file suit."

Improving compliance with labor standards in low-wage industries is a top priority of the department's Wage and Hour Division, which enforces the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

An investigation-based survey of poultry processing plants by Wage and Hour staff revealed only 40 percent were not violating wage and hour laws. Survey results, announced in February 1998, indicated that most violations occurred because employers did not pay overtime after 40 hours in the work week, or did not keep accurate records of the hours employees worked.

Although most compliance problems identified have been successfully resolved with the poultry processing industry's cooperation, the issue of whether chicken-catchers are entitled to overtime pay remains in dispute.

All producers named in the court actions were investigated during the department's compliance survey. Plants at which the overtime violations are alleged are: Tyson Foods, Inc. of Center, Texas; Sanderson Farms, Inc. of Laurel, Miss.; Continental Grain Co., doing business as Wayne Farms of Union Springs, Ala.; and Perdue Farms, Inc. of Lewiston, N.C.

The lawsuits were filed in federal district court in Lufkin, Texas; Hattiesburg, Miss.; Montgomery, Ala., and Raleigh, N.C.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Employment Standards Administration
June 16, 1999
Contact: David Roberts
Phone Number