Case Foods, Mountaire settle wage-fixing claims for a combined $22M

By Staff
3 Min Read

Dive Brief:

  • Two poultry companies have agreed to pay a combined $22 million to settle claims that they were part of an industry-wide effort to depress worker wages. 

  • Case Foods and Mountaire Farms on April 1 agreed to the settlement in a Maryland federal court after plaintiffs accused them and other processors of fixing hourly worker wages below fair market levels between 2019 and 2009. The deals are pending court approval.

  • The companies join the likes of Pilgrim’s Pride, Simmons Foods, Cargill, Perdue Farms and other defendants that have agreed to settle similar claims. Litigation continues for processors Tyson Foods, Koch Foods and Butterball.

Dive Insight:

Lawsuits allege that more than a dozen poultry companies have conspired to suppress the hourly wages of processing plant workers in violation of federal antitrust laws since 2009.

Companies conducted “off the books” meetings where they discussed and ultimately set wages and benefits paid to plant workers, the plaintiffs claimed in court documents.

The poultry companies had also allegedly exchanged timely, sensitive wage data through surveys conducted by Agri Stats and WMS, as well as through phone calls at the production level. It was not uncommon for plant managers to ask for current and projected compensation data from other poultry companies, according to plaintiffs.

Since July 2021, the court has preliminarily approved nine settlements. Pending court approval for Case and Mountaire, total settlement payouts have reached $217.25 million. Settlements do not indicate admission of any wrongdoing.

Case and Mountaire will pay $8.5 million and $13.5 million, respectively, to the plaintiff class, according to court documents. Spokespersons with the companies told Agriculture Dive that it was in their best interest to settle based on the cost of further litigation.

“This case was against an entire industry, and we believe it had no merit. We are happy to put it behind us and focus on the future,” Catherine Bassett, director of communications for Mountaire Farms, said in a statement.

Case also denied the allegations, with a spokesperson saying the company settled to “avoid unnecessary legal expenses and management time in another protracted litigation.”

The workers are represented in the case by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC. The remaining defendants in the case include Tyson Foods, Koch Foods, Butterball and Agri Stats.

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