Iowa kosher meatpacking plant charged $10 million fine
Tom Miller (D)
IOWA CITY, Iowa (Legal Newsline)- A kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa has been charged a $10 million fine for allegedly violating a bevy of state labor laws, officials said Wednesday.
The owner and managers of the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in September were charged with thousands of child labor law violations.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller at the time said there were more than 9,000 violations of Iowa's child labor law at the company's plant in Postville, Iowa, from Sept. 9, 2007, to May 12, 2008, when the plant was raided by federal immigration authorities.
The violations involved 32 children under the age of 18, including seven who were younger than 16-years-old.
On Wednesday, state Labor Commissioner Dave Neil assessed the civil penalties against the company.
"Agriprocessors has demonstrated a complete disregard for Iowa law," Neil said in a statement. "This continued course of violations is a black mark on Iowa's business community."
In all, $9,988,200 in civil penalties was assessed. Agriprocessors owes $264,786.45 in back wages.
Agriprocessors was assessed a penalty of $339,700 for illegally deducting "sales tax/miscellaneous" costs 3,397 times. A separate civil penalty, of $100 per incidence, exists for illegally deducting a charge for frocks. This deduction occurred in 96,436 separate incidences resulting in a $9,643,600 penalty. Also, 2,001 employees had their wages illegally reduced by $192,597.36.
The labor commissioner's office said also that Aggriprocessors failed to pay 42 employees their last paychecks on May 16th and May 23rd following the Immigration & Customs Enforcement raid. Due to the overlapping nature of pay periods, seven individuals were shorted two paychecks. The company has been assessed a penalty of $4,900 for this violation.
The company has 30 days to contest the proposed penalties in writing, the labor commissioner's office said in a statement.
Two of the company's human resources employees - Laura Althouse and Karina Freund - also were accused of helping illegal workers use false documents to gain employment at the plant.
Althouse on Wednesday pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants for financial gain and aggravated identity theft. Freund is scheduled for trial Nov. 17.
They face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge, and up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the aggravated identity theft charge.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.