State Fines companies for Misclassifying, Contracting Minors To Work at Poultry Plant


Bozrah, CT ( - Complaints that workers were improperly employed at a large poultry plant in Bozrah have been investigated, resulting in two companies being fined more than $270,000. The Connecticut Department of Labor's Wage and Workplace Standards Division cited the companies in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania that supplied workers to the Hillandale Farms for a plethora of violations. 

Whitmore, Poultry in Orange, Massachusetts, and Five Brothers 1, in Sunbury, Pa., admitted to not classifying their employees, instead categorizing them as independent contractors. Authorities said many of the employees working at Whitmore Poultry were between 14 and 17-years old. 

A fine of $180,600 was handed down to Five Brothers 1, and Whitmore Poultry was assessed a fine of $90,000. The two firms and not the Hillandale Farms were cited for the violations because Connecticut law deems the employer of record responsible for the violations and not the companies that have hired the subcontractor. 

"These business practices are an unacceptable way to operate in Connecticut,” said Thomas J. Wydra, director of the Department of Labor's Wage and Workplace Standards Division in a press release. “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."

As Wydra explained, employers that classify workers as independent contractors rather than employees not only pay lower worker's compensation premiums but also lower taxes and unemployment insurance costs. 

In the Oct. 11 inspection at the Bozrah plant, investigators determined that over 34 employees of Five Brothers 1 were being misclassified as independent contractors and immediately issued a stop-work order. That 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,” according to the release. Five Brothers also was cited for failing to maintain Connecticut workers compensation insurance for the employees.

Investigators working on the case as well as the state Department of Children and Families, returned to the plant after there was a complaint about minors being employed by Whitmore Poultry. Authorities said the investigators observed a passenger van arriving and dropping off 16 workers — including minors — after the full-time manager had left out for the day. The subsequent investigation concluded that these workers were also being misclassified as independent contractors. They had been working at the Bozrah plant for Whitmore Poultry for about eight months and were being paid weekly.

Whitmore Poultry was also issued a stop-work order and the company was cited for 512 violations for intentionally misrepresenting their employers as independent contractors.

When contacted by Department of Labor Director of Communications Steve Jensen noted “We cannot identify the complainant except to say it was a ‘concerned source.’" However, he did say that he didn't believe there are any disclosable investigative narratives or search warrants. 

After complying with the applicable relevant labor laws, On Oct.31, for becoming compliant with the applicable relevant labor laws, Whitmore Poultry was back in business on Oct. 31, while Five Brothers 1 was open again on Nov. 1.

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