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Not informing employees of sick leave costs Foster Farms millions
foster farms
The Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020 opened an investigation into Foster Poultry Farms after COVID-19 outbreaks were reported at the worksite. - photo by Journal file photo

Foster Farms and its contracted staffing agencies have to pay $3.8 million in fines after the California’s Labor Commissioner cited the local poultry company for not informing 3,476 workers of the availability for COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

An investigation by the state office was started in 2020 following a COVID-19 outbreak at the Livingston poultry plant. This included an audit of payroll records, which indicated the agencies and Foster Farms did not inform temporary staff of paid sick leave policies.

The 3,476 temporary workers are owed a total of $3,783,800. Human Bees, Inc. owes its 1,987 temporary workers $940,050; Viking Staffing CA, LLC owes its 341 temporary workers $377,850 and Marcos Renteria Ag Services Inc., which operates out of Turlock, owes its 1,148 temporary workers $2,465,900.

“Workers should not have to worry about financial hardship if they need to take care of themselves or a family member who is COVID positive,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “That’s what supplemental paid sick leave is for – it keeps sick workers at home and protects against the spread of COVID-19.”

The Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020 opened an investigation into Foster Poultry Farms after COVID-19 outbreaks were reported at the worksite. The investigation included an audit of payroll records, which determined that the temporary staffing agencies named above hired staff to fill in for permanent workers affected by COVID-19 outbreaks at the processing plant, but failed to inform the temporary staff of their rights to supplemental paid sick leave. The Labor Commissioner’s Office found the temporary staffing agencies and Foster Poultry Farms jointly liable for these violations.

“Employers who contract with staffing agencies have a joint responsibility to protect the health of their workers. 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,” added García-Brower.

California moved earlier this year to extend COVID-19 sick leave protections. The state passed the 2022 supplemental paid sick leave law that went into effect on Feb 19 - Sept. 30 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.

Workers whose employers have refused to provide paid sick leave or COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave as required by law can file a wage claim or report the labor law violation online, or can call the Labor Commissioner’s Office at 833-LCO-INFO (833-526-4636) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.