and its parent company are being sued by a group of employees who say the slaughterhouse and meat processing facility does not pay workers overtime and forces employees to be off the clock when doing work-related tasks such as waiting in line to receive clean equipment and clothing for the day.
The class action lawsuit, filed July 11 in Sonoma County Superior Court, says that the violations are routine practices at the facility, where workers, most of them Latino immigrants, clean, process and package organic chicken that is then distributed around the country.
“If you figure it takes an employee a certain number of minutes to take off their equipment, clean their hands and walk from one point to another all the while they’re on their lunch break, they are really putting the burden on the worker,” said Daniel Hunt, one of the attorneys filing the lawsuit.
“We’ve seen that at many processing facilities and it’s a way to whittle away a little bit of the payroll and save some money over time.”
Calls to Petaluma Poultry on Wednesday and Thursday morning were not immediately returned.
The class action lawsuit also contends that the processing plant did not pay workers outstanding wages once they had left the company and did not give them the legally required 30 minute lunch breaks and 10 minute rest breaks because part of the time was spent waiting in lines or washing or sanitizing themselves and their work stations.
The lawsuit will ultimately represent as many as 500 workers who have worked at the processing plant over the past five years, Hunt said.
Petaluma Poultry was founded in 1969 by Allen Shainsky, the son of a Russian immigrant who moved to Sonoma County in the 1920s. The company is known for its Rocky Jr. and Rosie Organic Chicken brands, and is division of Coleman Natural Products, a Colorado company also named in the suit.