The Department of Labor obtained a $1.7 million judgment for unpaid wages during the Avian Flu outbreak

In the wake of the 2015 Avian Flu outbreak, the United States Department of Labor launched an investigation that found multiple subcontractors under the main contractor, Clean Harbors Environmental Services, had not paid their workers appropriately. The Department of Labor recently announced that it had obtained a consent judgment to recover $1.7 million in unpaid wages for almost 2,900 workers who were employed by 145 different subcontractors during the outbreak.

Workers Involved in Euthanizing Birds and Disposing of Carcasses

The workers were primarily involved in euthanizing birds and disposing of carcasses during the Avian Flu outbreak in 2015. It was a challenging task that required long hours of work, and the workers deserved to be paid fairly for their efforts.

The department is now making efforts to locate the workers who are owed back wages. The process may take some time as many of these workers were employed by subcontractors that are no longer operating, while others may have moved to different states or even other countries.

The Department of Agriculture contracted Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc., a Norwell, Massachusetts-based company, to remove potentially infected poultry waste from various sites across Iowa between April and September 2015. The company’s responsibility was clear: they were to safely remove potentially contaminated poultry waste from the outbreak sites.

An investigation by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor found that the subcontractors’ workers were paid less than the prevailing wage required by their federal contract. The investigation brought to light how little some of these workers had been paid, which was a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Subcontractors paid workers less than the prevailing wage. The workers, who were employed by subcontractors such as Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health, Cotton Logistics, SWS Environmental Services, Trident Environmental Group LLC, and Triad Services, were paid less than the wage required by their federal contract. Failure to comply with these laws puts the lives of workers and communities in danger.

Overtime Pay Violations Also Discovered

Additionally, the workers’ hourly rate for overtime pay was miscalculated, and in some cases, contractors failed to pay overtime for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, which is a violation of the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act. Regular overtime pay is a vital protection for workers in highly dangerous and stressful situations like the Avian Flu outbreak. The workers deserve to be compensated for their extra effort, stress, and potential exposure to dangerous situations.

Clean Harbors Has Not Issued a Statement on the Matter

Clean Harbors, whose 2022 revenues increased by 36% to $5.17 billion compared with $3.81 billion in 2021, has not issued a statement on the matter. The company, which was leading the cleanup after the Avian Flu outbreak, still refuses to address the concerns of the workers who were shortchanged of their hard-earned wages.

“Prime contractors, such as Clean Harbors, are responsible for compliance with federal contract labor protections as well as the compliance of the subcontractors they employ,” said Regional Wage and Hour Division Administrator Michael Lazzeri. Companies that take part in government contracts should never circumvent laws that protect workers’ rights.

More than 2,900 employees, who worked long hours in response to an environmental disaster, were not properly paid for their hard work. This news serves as a reminder that even during times of crisis and environmental disasters, companies must still adhere to labor laws and regulations to protect workers’ rights. The Department of Labor will continue to hold employers accountable for protecting workers’ rights, and companies must take proactive measures to ensure compliance with all relevant labor standards.

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