DOJ files suit, settlement proposal against poultry companies

The U.S. Department of Justice has taken action to address alleged deceptive and abusive practices against poultry workers.   Justice officials filed suit against Cargill, Sanderson Farms, Wayne Farms, and their data consulting service, Webber, Meng, Sahl, and Company.  The suit claims the companies conspired to exchange wage and benefit information to drive down employee competition.

Along with the lawsuit, the Justice Department also proposed a settlement totaling 84.8 million dollars to pay restitution to poultry workers harmed by sharing of information by the companies. 

The proposed settlement would also force changes in the tournament system of paying growers, since the DOJ says the companies failed to provide information to farmers to evaluate and manage financial risk.  Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms would not be allowed to reduce base payments to growers to penalize them for underperformance.

The suit was filed as Cargill and Wayne Farms parent company Continental Grain plan to buy Sanderson Farms and then combine the two poultry operations.

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