ROCKY HILL — The Connecticut Department of Labor State has fined a Massachusetts and Pennsylvania companies a total $270,000 for contracting minors to work at Bozrah poultry plant.
The state found that workers were being improperly employed at a large poultry plant in Bozrah and fined the companies.
The state said, “Five Brothers 1, based in Sunbury, Pa., and Whitmore Poultry, based in Orange, Mass., admitted improperly classifying the workers as independent contractors for their work at Hillandale Farms in Bozrah. Many of the workers employed by Whitmore Poultry were minors between ages 14 and 17.”
Five Brothers 1 was assessed a fine of $180,600, and Whitmore Poultry a fine of $90,000. Both firms supply hundreds of temporary workers to poultry farms. The two firms, and not Hillandale Farms, were cited for the violations as Connecticut law holds the employer of record responsible – not the company that hired the subcontractor.
If workers are classified as contractors, the employer pays lower workers compensation premiums, taxes and unemployment insurance costs
“These business practices are an unacceptable way to operate in Connecticut,” , said Thomas J. Wydra, Director of the Dept. of Labor’s Wage and Workplace Standards Division, said. “Every working person is entitled to proper workplace protections, and taxpayers should not be burdened with costs that are the legal responsibility of employers. Our staff is committed to educating both employers and employees about these laws, and enforcing them to help ensure a legitimate and safe workplace environment.”
According to a press release:
On October 11, inspectors at the Bozrah plant determined more than of 34 employees of Five Brothers 1 were being misclassified as independent contractors. A stop-work order was immediately issued to Five Brothers 1, and the company was cited for 602 violations of knowingly misrepresenting the employees as independent contractors.
The violations represent each worker for each week that work was performed and the employee was paid in unreported cash payments. Five Brothers also was cited for failing to maintain Connecticut Workers Compensation Insurance for the employees.
Investigators, including from the state Department of Children and Families, returned to the plant on Oct. 30 after a complaint that minors were being improperly employed there by Whitmore Poultry.
Investigators observed a passenger van arrive and drop off 16 young workers, after the plant’s full-time staff had left for the day. The ensuing investigation determined that the workers, including minors, were being misclassified as independent contractors.
They had been working at the Bozrah plant for Whitmore Poultry for approximately eight months and were being paid in cash on a weekly basis.
A stop-work order was immediately issued to Whitmore Poultry for their business operation at the plant, and the company was cited for 512 violations of knowingly misrepresenting the employees as independent contractors.
The stop-work order was released against Whitmore Poultry on Oct. 31 and against Five Brothers 1 on Nov. 1 after they demonstrated compliance with relevant labor laws.