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The US Labor Department revealed that The Exclusive Poultry, a Los Angeles-based poultry processor, employed children as young as 14 to debone chicken and concealed them during investigations.

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This finding, detailed in recent court documents, led to a consent decree announced on Monday, where the company agreed to pay over $3.8 million, including back wages, damages, and civil penalties. Jessica Looman, an administrator at the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, said, “Exclusive Poultry and owner Tony Bran willfully withheld workers’ hard-earned wages, endangered young workers and retaliated against employees to conceal their wrongdoing.”

The company’s attorney, Anthony McClaren, said, “These were just allegations and the case was in its infancy. We were just beginning to do our own discovery to understand whether or not these allegations were true.” Despite the early stage of the case, McClaren noted the company’s decision to settle with the federal agency was in its best interest.

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This comes after a Labor Department’s investigation, initiated by a complaint about unpaid wages in August 2022, discovered young workers at the company’s processing locations, some as young as 14, who were hesitant to communicate with investigators and often fled. Investigators found evidence of minors working extensive overtime without attending school and suffering injuries on the job. Additionally, they alleged that employees were intimidated by owner Tony Bran and that minors were hidden in closets and bathrooms to avoid detection during investigations.

As part of the settlement, the company has agreed to three years of third-party monitoring to ensure compliance with labor laws, particularly regarding hiring minors and wage payments. This case is part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to crack down on wage theft and child labor, including a recent case where over 100 children, some as young as 13, were found working in slaughterhouses for a Midwestern firm.


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