California Labor Commissioner Cites Staffing Agencies, Foster Farms Nearly $3.8 Million for COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Violations

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California Labor Commissioner Cites Staffing Agencies, Foster Farms Nearly $3.8 Million for COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Violations

Epps & Coulson, LLP previously informed of the requirement of employers to give all employees notice of rights to supplemental paid sick leave/COVID-19 notices.  This update is about that and about the risks and obligations of joint employer liability.  Here’s the relevant parts of the notice:

The Labor Commissioner’s Office just 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,” added Labor Commissioner García-Brower.

The 3,476 temporary workers 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[1] went into effect on February 19, 2022 and is retroactive to January 1, 2022.  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[2] or report the labor law violation[3] 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)[4] combats wage theft and unfair competition by investigating allegations of illegal and unfair business practices.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020 launched an interdisciplinary outreach campaign, “Reaching Every Californian.”  The campaign amplifies basic protections and builds pathways to impacted populations so that workers and employers understand legal protections and obligations, and the Labor Commissioner’s enforcement procedures.

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Information contained in this Memo is intended for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.  It is likely considered advertising.  Epps & Coulson, LLP encourages you to call to discuss these matters as they apply to you or your business.

Attorneys admitted to practice in California, New York, Colorado, Texas, and Oregon