OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
News Release USDL: 96-370
Monday, September 9, 1996
Contact: Scott Sutherland (202) 219-8211
Stephen Gaskill (202) 219-6091
Labor Department Takes Steps in OSHA Case Against Maine Egg Producer
"We have seen some encouraging signs that DeCoster intends to fix problems at the farms. I am hopeful that the company's new team, hired to oversee improvements, and the purchase of new trailers to house workers, will make a difference," said Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich. "But it's my duty to guarantee that DeCoster pays the appropriate penalty for violating the law, and to make sure that any positive changes made in DeCoster's working conditions become permanent."
"When Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, it made clear that monetary penalties are needed to create the right incentives for employers to comply with safety and health standards from the beginning," said Reich. "It's not enough just to fix violations after workers already have been exposed to dangers."
Attorneys for the Labor Department today took steps in the department's case against DeCoster Egg Farms, by formally asking DeCoster for information related to its position in the case. Department attorneys also asked the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission for permission to take testimony from DeCoster managers. The steps are designed to help prepare the case for trial before a Review Commission judge.
DeCoster Egg Farms, one of the nation's largest egg producers, was cited July 12 for numerous alleged egregious and willful violations of health and safety and wage and hour laws.
Since the mid-1970s, DeCoster Egg Farms has been inspected 15 times by OSHA inspectors for safety and health violations and by Wage and Hour investigators for failure to pay wages when due. Most recently, OSHA cited the company for violations of safety and health regulations at its worksite and workers' temporary housing and failing to correct conditions cited on previous inspections.
Workers at the Maine migrant farm lived with exposure to live electrical parts and inoperable smoke alarms. Often 12 people lived in one 10-foot by 60-foot trailer. Overused septic tanks overflowed, causing toilet contents to back up several inches into shower tubs. Without adequate and operable shower or laundry facilities, workers were often unable to clean themselves or their soiled clothes. Although they were required to clean the processing plant for as many as 10 hours per night, they were paid for only 3-1/2 hours.
"Although we have met with DeCoster's representatives, we have no assurances that the company will bring this matter to an end," said Reich. "Today's motion will expedite the resolution of this case, ensure justice is served and that workers are protected."
"We are ready to meet with DeCoster representatives at any time, and look forward to a speedy resolution of this matter," said Reich.
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