LIVINGSTON, Merced County (AP) — California has cited and fined a Foster Farms chicken processing plant that saw a deadly coronavirus outbreak last year, saying the company failed to protect its workers.

The state Division of Occupational Health and Safety’s penalty of $181,500 is one of the steepest citations issued during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sacramento Bee reported Monday.

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A representative for Foster Farms told the newspaper that the company “does not have a comment” on the citations.

Cal/OSHA alleged Foster Farms failed to “establish, implement and maintain” an effective system for communicating with its employees and contract employees regarding COVID-19 in the workplace.

The company also failed to effectively communicate with its own management about outbreaks, and failed to communicate measures it was taking to prevent exposure to the virus, according to Cal/OSHA.

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Cal/OSHA opened an investigation after receiving notification that an employee had died from COVID-19 complications, the newspaper said. Following its probe, the agency alleged Foster Farms and one of its staffing agencies failed to immediately report at least four deaths of employees at the company’s processing plant in Merced County last summer.

Foster Farms’ Livingston facility was temporarily shut down in August after at least 358 employees tested positive for the virus and at least eight employees died.

 

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