BOSS WATCH: 5/31 - 6/7
Updated On: Jun 11, 2024


By JACOB MORRISON | June 10, 2024


Illegal activities of Southern Bosses for the weeks between Friday, May 31 and Friday, June 7


—VIRGINIA ANIMAL ABUSERS—

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Envigo RMS LLC pleaded guilty to conspiring to knowingly violate the Animal Welfare Act, and Envigo Global Services Inc. pleaded guilty to a felony of conspiring to knowingly violate the Clean Water Act. Both pleas are in relation to a dog breeding facility located in Cumberland County, Virginia, from which the Justice Department secured the surrender of over 4,000 beagles in 2022.

As part of the resolution, Inotiv – of which Envigo RMS and Envigo Global Services are subsidiaries – will guarantee more than $35 million in payments, be subject to increased animal care standards, and be subject to a compliance monitor. This resolution marks the largest ever fine in an Animal Welfare Act case.

According to court documents, Envigo RMS conspired to knowingly violate the Animal Welfare Act by failing to provide, among other things, adequate veterinary care, adequate staffing and safe living conditions for dogs housed at the Cumberland County facility.

In addition, Envigo Global Services conspired to knowingly violate the Clean Water Act by failing to properly operate and maintain the wastewater treatment plant at the Cumberland County facility that exposed the facility workers and dogs to insufficiently treated wastewater contaminated with fecal matter, which was also discharged into a local waterway. In addition, the investigation into the environmental violations found that contaminated well water was provided to the dogs for drinking water and was used to power wash kennels, creating an increased risk of disease.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the entities will serve from three to five years of probation and pay a total criminal fine of $22 million – that is, $11 million for each violation. In addition, the entities will pay approximately $1.1 million to the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force and approximately $1.9 million to the Humane Society of the United States for direct assistance provided to the investigation.

An additional $3.5 million will be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to benefit and restore the environment and ecosystems in Cumberland County, at least $500,000 of which will be spent on purchasing riparian wetland or riparian land located in or near Cumberland.

The entities will spend at least $7 million to improve their facilities and personnel beyond the standards imposed by the Animal Welfare Act.

Finally, the entities will pay all costs associated with a compliance monitor, which will oversee the entities’ compliance with these enhanced animal welfare standards, the Animal Welfare Act, the Clean Water Act, a nationwide compliance plan and additional terms of the agreements and probation.

—TEXAS WHISTLEBLOWER RETALIATOR—

A federal Administrative Law Judge has upheld the Department of Labor’s finding that a Houston crane and rigging services provider violated federal law by firing a company truck driver on June 5, 2020, for refusing to exceed safe driving limits set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

An investigation by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined the driver employed by Crane Masters Inc. told their employer that, after working 19 hours on June 4, 2020, it would be unsafe for them to operate a commercial vehicle as they had not gotten the legally required amount of time off before returning to work. The Houston company responded by terminating the driver.

OSHA found the company fired the employee illegally for exercising their protected rights under the federal Whistleblower Protection Program, and the department’s Regional Solicitor in Dallas presented its case during a formal hearing in Houston on Oct. 14, 2022.

On May 13, 2024, the judge issued a decision upholding OSHA’s findings and ordered Crane Masters to pay the former truck driver $14,945 in back pay, interest and compensatory damages. The company must also expunge the former employee’s record and post a notice to employees.

—NORTH CAROLINA DISCRIMINATORS—

PepsiCo Beverage Sales, LLC violated federal law when it failed to provide a reasonable accommodation to and fired a blind employee in its North Carolina call center, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, PepsiCo hired a blind employee as a customer care advocate for its Winston-Salem call center. The employee notified PepsiCo that he was blind and requested a reasonable accommodation for his visual impairment that would allow him to access information in the call center computers to perform his job. A vocational counselor from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) offered to conduct an assistive technology assessment of PepsiCo’s computer system and offered assistance with purchasing supportive equipment for the employee.

According to the EEOC, this assistance was rebuffed by PepsiCo, which represented to NCDHHS that the accommodations had to be handled internally. The employee was placed on unpaid leave while PepsiCo reviewed the accommodation request. PepsiCo claimed it did not have other jobs that were suitable for the employee and fired him. PepsiCo failed to consider or offer other accommodations to assist the employee in performing the essential functions of the job, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the ADA, which protects employees and jobseekers from disability discrimination. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. PepsiCo Beverage Sales, LLC d/b/a PepsiCo Beverage Company Case No. 1:24-cv-00456) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its administrative conciliation process.

—DISHONORABLE MENTIONS—

  • The USDOL’s Wage and Hour Division found LJ2 Investments LLC – operator of Jasso Express food trucks – failed to pay the required time and one-half the hourly wages of 46 catering service workers for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Additionally, the employer failed to keep records, in violation of federal law.  The division recovered $78,664 in back wages and $78,664 in liquidated damages

  • The EPA announced a settlement with Thoroughbred Performance Products of Winchester, Kentucky (d/b/a Thoroughbred Diesel) in response to EPA claims that the company illegally sold thousands of aftermarket products that disable vehicles’ emissions control systems – known collectively as ‘defeat devices.’ As part of the settlement, Thoroughbred Diesel agreed to stop selling defeat devices and pay a civil penalty of $1,250,000.

  • The EPA fined an automotive aftermarket parts distributor based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for allegedly selling illegal “defeat devices” designed to render automobile emission controls inoperative, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. Full Force Diesel Performance, Inc. (FFDP), paid $525,438 in civil penalties to settle the claims brought by the EPA. Over a period of two years, FFDP sold at least 1,719 aftermarket defeat devices, including 406 exhaust emission control delete hardware kits, 337 exhaust gas recirculation delete kits, 21 throttle valve delete hardware kits, and 955 tuning products.


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