A North Carolina company that rounds up live chickens for poultry processors has paid nearly $600,000 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to 838 workers as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
The Marshville, N.C., company Unicon Inc. paid the back wages to employees who worked as chicken catchers and van drivers. Investigators with the DOL Wage & Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standard Act’s overtime and recordkeeping provisions at the company’s work sites throughout the Northeast and Southeast.
“The violations resulted from the company’s failure to pay for all the hours employees had worked. Specifically, Unicon made automatic deductions from payroll for lunch and other breaks that crew leaders and catch crew members did not actually take,” DOL explained. “The firm also failed to pay workers for time they spent on work activities prior to the start of the actual catching process and failed to pay crew leaders for time spent picking up catch crew members and cleaning company vans.”
Additionally, the division cited the employer for not maintaining work time and payroll records.
“This agreement goes a long way to ensure that Unicon’s workers are made whole by providing the wages they earned. It also levels the playing field for other employers in this industry,” said Mark Watson, administrator of the division’s Northeast Region.
The fair labor law requires that covered, non-exempt employees be paid at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time-and-a-half their regular rates -- including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay -- for time worked beyond 40 hours per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records.