Three poultry companies and their owner paid $1.47 million to allegations involving underpayment of 300 workers, the California Department of Industrial Relations reported. The three companies were defined as “client employers” — businesses that obtain labor from a labor contractor, according to the department.

The companies in the settlement are The Exclusive Poultry Inc., JT Foods Specialty Inc. and D8 Poultry LLC, according to the department. The owner of the companies, Tony Bran, is also part of the allegations.

Bran and his companies leased the processing facilities, supplied the chicken to be deboned and sold the chicken to their customers, the department said. The workers were supplied to the companies through five labor contractors: Sullon Poultry Inc. and Camacho Poultry LLC in La Puente, California, and D-8 Foods Inc., Best Poultry Inc. and MG Poultry Inc. in East Los Angeles.

Workers were paid by the piece to debone chicken legs. They were not provided rest breaks as required by law, were not paid overtime and were not compensated for time required to wait for shipments of chicken to arrive or for deboned chicken to be removed from their work area. The department noted some workers made less than minimum wage. Another allegation: The poultry processors also failed to maintain workers’ compensation coverage.

The department began an investigation after a complaint was filed in the summer of 2017. It found workers were paid a flat rate of $2.35 per 40-pound box of deboned chicken and not paid for rest breaks or other nonproductive time or overtime.

Citations were issued in 2018. However, Bran and his companies appealed the citations, though they were upheld in October 2021 with only minor changes after a 10-day hearing. In addition, the hearing officer determined Bran and his companies were client employers to the five poultry processor labor contractors.

The hearing officer found a total of $901,032 payable to workers in unpaid wages, damages and interest as follows:

  • $68,400 for minimum wage violations.
  • $213,118 in liquidated damages and interest.
  • $236,370 in rest period violations.
  • $5,864 for overtime violations.
  • $377,280 for waiting time penalties.

Bran and his companies were also found responsible for an additional $397,150 in civil penalties for minimum wage, overtime, rest period and waiting time violations. The citations also included $203,102 for workers’ compensation violations against Exclusive Poultry and Bran.

After the October 2021 decision by the hearing officer, Bran and the companies filed a request for the Los Angeles Superior Court to review the decision. However, the department said it also filed two lawsuits against Bran and four of his relatives alleging that Bran had transferred real estate to them to avoid paying for his legal liabilities. Bran and his companies subsequently agreed to the settlement.

The $1.47 million has already been paid.

Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower lauded the outcome, stressing employers must pay no less than the minimum wage and compensate works for rest periods and other nonproductive time.

“This result also upholds the liability of client employers, who in this case built a business around low-paid processing workers and tried to hide behind undercapitalized labor contractors,” García-Brower said.