MORTON, MS – Work in a poultry processing plant is hard: the hours are often long and the jobs expose workers to serious safety and health hazards. In return for subjecting themselves to high noise levels, dangerous equipment, slippery floors, hazardous chemicals and biological dangers, and the common risks of musculoskeletal disorders, a Mississippi worker’s mean annual wage is less than $30,000.
Employers at two Morton processing plants made the jobs of 313 workers that much harder by denying them minimum wage and overtime pay, a U.S. Department of Labor investigation has found.
- Made illegal deductions that reduced employees’ average hourly pay below the federal minimum wage.
- Failed to pay the correct overtime rate to some workers for hours over 40 in workweek. The employer calculated the overtime rate based on an incorrect average hourly rate because of illegal deductions.
- Paid some workers a straight-time rate for overtime hours worked.
- Did not include bonuses into the rate of pay when calculating overtime rates.
- Instructed some workers to refrain from clocking in, leading to unpaid hours.
- Failed to maintain records of workers’ hours worked.
As a result of the investigations, the division has recovered $285,848 in back wages for 313 workers.
“Families across the country depend on food industry workers to put meals on their tables, and these workers deserve to be paid all of their rightful wages,” said Wage and Hour Division District Office Director Audrey Hall in Jackson, Mississippi. “Unfortunately, the people affected by the violations in this case work in an industry where wages are low and violations are all too common. The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to protecting their rights and ensuring that they receive all of the hard-earned wages they rely on to make ends meet.”
On May 9, 2022, following the investigations, division representatives met with workers from the two poultry processing plants to present them with their back wages owed. A majority of the affected workers have been notified, but the division is still trying to find more than 40 workers who the division has found are owed wages. Workers can use a search tool if they think they may be owed back wages collected by the division, or call the division confidentially at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).
In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor maintains the “Employment, Education and Outreach” hotline to aid Spanish-speaking employees and employers regarding workplace rights and responsibilities. The EMPLEO alliance is a collaboration of community and nongovernmental organizations, including state, local, and federal agencies and Hispanic consulates. Workers and employers can reach EMPLEO by calling (877) 522-9832 or (877) 55-AYUDA.