California Says Foster Farms and Temp Agencies Owe Workers $3.8M for Covid-19 Sick Pay

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office has cited three temporary staffing agencies – Viking Staffing CA LLC, Human Bees Inc. and Marcos Renteria Ag Services Inc.-- as well as joint employers Foster Farms, LLC and Foster Poultry Farms (“Foster Farms”) for nearly $3.8 million for their failure to inform 3,476 temporary workers of their available COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

“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, a processing plant in Livingston, 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, Foster Farms, LLC 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,” García-Brower said in a statement..

The 3,476 temporary workers at the temporary agencies are owed a total of $3,783,800 in penalties. 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. owes its 1,148 temporary workers $2,465,900.

The 2022 supplemental paid sick leave law went into effect on Feb.19 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.

The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (California Labor Commissioner’s Office) combats wage theft and unfair competition by investigating allegations of illegal and unfair business practices.


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