North Carolina poultry company, US Labor Department agree on back wages
BALTIMORE – A North Carolina company that rounds up live chickens for poultry processors has paid nearly $600,000 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to 838 workers as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Marshville company, Unicon Inc., paid the back wages to employees who worked as chicken catchers and van drivers. Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standard Act’s overtime and recordkeeping provisions at the company’s worksites throughout the northeast and southeast.
The violations resulted from the company’s failure to pay for all the hours employees had worked. Specifically, Unicon made automatic deductions from payroll for lunch and other breaks that crew leaders and catch crew members did not actually take. The firm also failed to pay workers for time they spent on work activities prior to the start of the actual catching process, and failed to pay crew leaders for time spent picking up catch crew members and cleaning company vans. The division also cited the employer for not maintaining time and payroll records.
“This agreement goes a long way to ensure that Unicon’s workers are made whole by providing the wages they earned. It also levels the playing field for other employers in this industry,” said Mark Watson, administrator of the division’s Northeast Region.
The division is committed to providing companies with the tools they need to understand and comply with labor laws. It offers useful resources ranging from an interactive Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses advisor to a complete library of free, downloadable workplace posters. In addition, the division’s Community Outreach and Resource Planning Specialists conduct ongoing outreach activities to educate stakeholders, including employers, employees, business and labor groups and professional associations, among others, with accessible, easy-to-understand information about their rights and responsibilities.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records.
For more information about federal wage laws administered by the division, call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.