The California labor commissioner announced April 26 that it has cited Foster Farms LLC and Foster Poultry Farms, as well as three joint-employer temporary staffing agencies, for nearly $3.8 million for failure to inform 3,476 temporary workers of their available Covid-19 supplemental paid sick leave.
The labor commissioner’s office in 2020 opened an investigation into Foster Poultry Farms, a processing plant in Livingston, California, after Covid-19 outbreaks were reported at the worksite. A related audit of payroll records determined that the temporary staffing agencies that hired staff to fill in for permanent workers affected by Covid-19 outbreaks at the processing plant — Viking Staffing CA LLC, Human Bees Inc. and Marcos Renteria Ag Services Inc. — failed to inform the temporary staff of their rights to supplemental paid sick leave, according to the labor commissioner’s office. It found the temporary staffing agencies, Foster Farms LLC and Foster Poultry Farms jointly liable for the violations.
“Employers who contract with staffing agencies have a joint responsibility to protect the health of their workers,” Labor Commissioner García-Brower said. “Employers are obligated to ensure that employees are made aware of sick leave benefits intended to protect workers, their families and the public from the spread of Covid-19.”
The temporary workers are owed a total of $3,783,800 in penalties. Human Bees owes its 1,987 temporary workers $940,050; Viking Staffing CA owes 341 temporary workers $377,850; and Marcos Renteria Ag Services owes 1,148 temporary workers $2,465,900.
“Foster Farms is reviewing the recent action by the California Labor Commissioner,” Foster Farms said in a statement to SIA. “We abide by all federal and state employment laws, and as a matter of policy require all vendors to do so as well.”
The 2022 supplemental paid sick leave law went into effect Feb. 19, and is retroactive to Jan. 1. It provides covered employees up to 80 hours of Covid-19 related paid leave, with up to 40 of those hours for isolation and quarantine, receiving vaccines and caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed, and up to an additional 40 of those hours available only when an employee or family member for whom the employee provides care tests positive for Covid-19.
California’s first Covid-related supplemental paid sick leave was enacted in September 2020 to fill gaps left by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw. The 2020 plan expired on Dec. 31, 2020. A new one was enacted March 19, 2021, and effective Jan. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2021.