California Levies Six-Figure COVID Fines

Sept. 17, 2020
California has socked a frozen food company and a temporary labor agency with fines exceeding $200,000 each in connection with COVID.

California has socked a frozen food company, and a temporary labor agency that it often uses, with fines exceeding $200,000 each in connection with COVID cases among its workforce.

The state’s Department of Industrial Relations announced that it is proposing a penalty of $222,075 for Overhill Farms, a processor of frozen proteins, sides, soups and sauces based in Vernon. It also assessed a $214,080 fine against Jobsource North America, a temp agency that sends workers to Overhill. Both companies have indicated they will appeal.

The fines stem from a COVID outbreak that sickened more than 20 Overhill workers and left one dead. The state charged that both companies failed to ensure social distancing during the job, in the breakroom and during clocking in and out. They also charged the companies with failing to investigate the outbreak.

In a statement quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Overhill Farms said that they have “not only taken steps in line with the constantly evolving federal, state and local guidance, we have gone above and beyond those recommendations as we developed our employee safety procedures.”

The California fines are substantially larger than those proposed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration for Smithfield Foods and JBS Inc. Referring to those fines, a former OSHA administrator told Mother Jones magazine that “this is the Trump administration saying that these workers’ lives are worth less than pork shoulders.”

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