BOSS WATCH: 1/6 - 1/19
Updated On: Feb 12, 2024


By JACOB MORRISON January 22, 2024


Illegal activities of Southern Bosses for the weeks between Friday, January 5 and Friday, January 19


—MISSISSIPPI KILLERS—

For the second time in just over two years, a poultry processing plant in Hattiesburg has disregarded safety standards that have led to a worker’s death, this time a 16-year-old sanitation worker who was pulled into a machine, federal safety investigators found.   

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that on July 14, 2023, a contract worker employed by Onin Staffing, LLC was performing a deep clean of the deboning area at the Mar-Jac Poultry MS, LLC plant. While sanitizing the still-energized machine, the teen was caught in the rotating shaft and sprockets and pulled in, sustaining fatal injuries. Investigators found that – despite a manager’s supervision in and around the area prior to and during the fatal incident –  lockout/tagout procedures were not utilized to disconnect power to the machine and a lockout/tagout device was not used to prevent the machine from unintentionally starting during the cleaning. 

OSHA cited Mar-Jac Poultry with 14 serious and three other-than-serious violations after finding the company failed to: 

  • Ensure energy control procedures were used to prevent the unexpected start-up of machines while employees performed sanitation, exposing workers to caught-in hazards. 

  • Ensure employees used lockout/tagout devices on machinery when performing cleaning.

  • Ensure an energy control procedure included specific steps for blocking and securing portions of the machinery while workers performed cleaning. 

  • Failed to ensure the machinery retained guarding to prevent employees from entering danger zones while machinery was in operation. 

  • Cover open holes in 480-volt electrical cabinets, exposing workers to electrical hazards. 

  • Prevent workers from using portable ladders incorrectly to gain access to elevated work surfaces, exposing workers to fall hazards.

OSHA has proposed $212,646 in penalties, an amount set by federal statute. 

The agency previously cited Mar-Jac Poultry after a May 31, 2021, incident in which an employee’s shirt  sleeve was caught in a machine and they were pulled in, pinning their body against the support and the machine’s carousel, resulting in fatal injuries. 

In addition to OSHA’s investigation, the department’s Wage and Hour Division has an open child labor investigation and the matter is currently pending.

—ALABAMA THIEVES—

The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $127,249 in back wages and liquidated damages for 26 workers at an aviation maintenance shop employed by a Dothan staffing company that misclassified them as independent contractors and denied overtime wages. 

Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Lucero Aerospace Staffing Solutions LLC paid workers straight-time rates for all hours and failed to pay the additional half-time rate required for hours over 40 in a workweek. In addition, the employer failed to pay one worker at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, all violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act

In Alabama, the division has recovered more than $513,868 waiting to be claimed for 1,476 workers and offers a workers owed wages search tool that people can use to see if they are owed back wages collected by the agency. Workers who feel they may not be getting the wages they earned or are misclassified as independent contractors may contact a Wage and Hour Division representative in their state through a list and interactive online map on the agency’s website.

—TENNESSEE CHILD ABUSERS—

The nation’s largest Bojangles franchise owner will make enterprise-wide changes to improve working conditions for minor-aged employees and compliance with federal labor regulations at their 118 locations in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee after entering an enhanced compliance agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor. 

The agreement comes after investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found BOJ of WNC LLC — based in Arden, North Carolina — violated federal child labor laws at a Bojangles location in Powell. This is the second time in less than two years that the division cited the company for similar violations.  

Specifically, the division determined BOJ of WNC employed 13 children to work at the Powell restaurant after 7 p.m. between Labor Day and June 1, more than three hours during a school day, and during school hours, all of which violated child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In addition, BOJ of WNC employed three 15-year-olds to use an oven for baking biscuits and a manual grease fryer, tasks the department has identified as hazardous for young workers.

The agency assessed BOJ of WNC with a $27,586 civil money penalty for allowing similar working hours violations as those identified in March 2022 at a Bojangles in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In that case, 16 minor-aged employees were affected, and the division assessed $11,744 in civil money penalties.

As part of the agreement, BOJ of WNC will take the following steps to ensure future compliance: 

  • Stop 14- and 15-year-olds from using manual fryers or engaging in cooking activities in any of the occupations prohibited under the law. The employer will also post written notices on equipment not permitted for use by minor-aged employees in its stores.

  • Refrain from employing 14- and 15-year-olds to work outside of legally prescribed hours.

  • Distribute a copy of the child labor provisions for non-agricultural occupations under the FLSA to all current and future locations owned by the enterprise and require all managers and shift leaders to return a compliance acknowledgement, certifying that they are currently in compliance with the applicable child labor laws. 

  • Require all 14- and 15-year-old workers, and their parents or guardians, to sign an understanding of the child labor occupational and hours requirements under the law.

  • Ensure area directors perform quarterly reviews of time records for 14- and 15-year-old workers.

  • Add prohibited occupations for minor-aged employees to BOJ of WNC’s policy manuals, including cooking activities, use of deep fryers, long periods inside freezers or meat coolers, and adjustment or cleaning of power-driven machinery such as slicers, choppers and mixers.

—FLORIDA KILLERS—

A 36-year-old mower operator drowned after the mower rolled over in a pond, pinning the worker underwater. Federal workplace safety inspectors determined the employer could have avoided the incident by following required safety measures outlined in the equipment operator’s manual.

An investigation into the July 4, 2023, incident by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found the employee of TruScapes Industries Inc. in Bradenton was riding a zero-turn lawnmower in a residential neighborhood when it tipped over into a water retention pond. Investigators learned the machine’s roll-over protection system was not engaged while operating on a sloping embankment near the pond and the equipment was operated on a slope that exceeded the limitations defined in the equipment manual.

OSHA cited the employer for one willful violation for not having a rollover protection system in use and for operating the equipment on a steep slope, and one serious violation for not providing potable water for drinking. OSHA proposed $166,305 in penalties.

The agency cited TruScapes after a similarly fatal incident in Bradenton in July 2015. In that investigation, OSHA issued TruScapes Industries five serious citations and proposed $18,200 in penalties.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows 1,242 work-related fatalities occurred in the landscaping and groundskeeping industry from 2011-2022. Operating machines near water hazards, such as ponds and ditches, represents a known occupational hazard to landscape workers. Federal area offices in the southeast region have an active Regional Emphasis Program for Landscaping and Horticultural Services that aims to reduce fatalities and injury accident rates in this industry.

—DISHONORABLE MENTIONS—

  • The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $47,728 in back wages and liquidated damages for two former employees of two separate Tennessee-based healthcare providers - Wellpath LLC and Whitescreek Wellness - that violated their rights to protected leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

  • A global electric vehicle battery manufacturer - SK Battery America Inc - exposed employees at its Commerce, GA plant to serious and potentially disabling safety and health hazards, a U.S. Department of Labor workplace safety inspection found. OSHA has proposed $75,449 in penalties, an amount set by federal statute.

  • U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigators found that two Myrtle Beach, FL daycare facilities - Kids Paradise - failed to pay overtime for hours worked over 40 in a workweek to 61 employees as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act. The division recovered $47,287 in back wages for 61 workers.

  • U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigators found Victoria Espinoza and Nora Carlon, owners of two North Florida restaurants, required some workers to arrive before the restaurant opened to prep for the day’s shift and to clean at the end of their shifts after clocking out for the day. By doing so, the employer committed a minimum wage violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act for not compensating employees for all hours worked, and an overtime violation for not paying a time-and-one-half rate for hours over 40 in a workweek.  $124,592 in back wages and liquidated damages for 39 workers. Civil money penalties:  $4,746 in civil money penalties to address the child labor violations. 

  • A former pastor - Philip Brian Box - who now works at a Florida-based private Christian school is facing theft charges after he allegedly stole nearly $9,000 from the Alabama Coroner’s Association, according to court records.


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