Home News Judge orders California poultry processing plants to stop using child labor

Judge orders California poultry processing plants to stop using child labor

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A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order this week following an urgent U.S. Department of Labor request to block three San Gabriel Valley poultry processing plants from using “oppressive” child labor.

The order Monday, April 1, by U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright II came in response to a Department of Labor lawsuit filed over the weekend that names L&Y Food of El Monte, Moon Poultry of Irwindale and JRC Culinary Group of Monterey Park as defendants.

Also named as a co-defendant is the owner of the three companies, Fu Qian Chen Lu.

Wright ordered the businesses to stop using child labor, provide the Department of Labor with names, birth dates, and contact information for all workers employed since May 1, 2023, and refrain from shipping any poultry produced by minors.

Last month, investigators with the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division executed a search warrant at Moon Poultry, where they allegedly saw workers younger than18 using sharp knives to debone raw poultry instead of being in school.

An attorney representing the defendants said in an email Wednesday that the search followed an alleged sting operation in January in which Labor Department officials enabled a 17-year-old to obtain employment with Moon Poultry under false pretenses by providing a fake government-issued ID.

“DOL attorney Sonya Shao has not denied this information,” said the attorney, Gregory Patterson. “The DOL then directed this person to work in a hazardous area of the Moon Poultry facility.”

The undercover operation paralleled a DOL overtime investigation that demanded a multimillion-dollar “posting amount” from the same defendants without any meaningful evidence of unpaid wages, Patterson said.

“The DOL has cynically used the child labor allegation — which it manufactured — to strengthen its negotiating hand and attempt to force us into an early settlement of the overtime claims,” he added. “The DOL is likely to be a defendant before this is over.”

The DOL declined to comment on Patterson’s allegations.

Despite the search at Moon Poultry, where minors had worked for months, the Labor Department reported that product continued to be moved out of the facility. Items tainted by “oppressive” child labor are considered “hot goods” and are prohibited from entering the marketplace.

“Defendants have refused to disclose to plaintiff where those hot goods are and have refused to refrain from shipping such goods into commerce,” Wright said in granting the restraining order.

As a result of the alleged obstruction, Wage and Hour Division investigators have been unable to determine whether the hot goods are in the marketplace.

The Labor Department is seeking information about the shipments to notify “downstream” purchasers the goods were produced by child labor.

Last month, the agency filed a federal petition to force Lu and his companies to comply with administrative subpoenas and prohibit witness tampering and interference in its investigation.



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