Employees sue poultry processor over failure to pay overtime wages

March 21, 2001|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Allen Family Foods Inc. violated state and federal labor laws by failing to pay overtime wages to the chicken catchers who gather birds for the company's poultry processing facilities in Maryland and Delaware, five workers contended in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday.

The workers say in the complaint that they routinely work more than 40 hours a week, performing one of the toughest jobs in the poultry industry - catching chickens with their bare hands in crowded, poorly ventilated chicken houses on the Eastern Shore, and then stuffing them in cages to be transported to processing plants.

Each worker is paid about $2 per 1,000 birds caught, with no extra pay for overtime hours, according to the complaint.

Two similar complaints have been filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Last year, a federal judge ordered Perdue Farms Inc. to pay overtime to chicken catchers. Another case is pending against Tyson Foods.

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