We are appalled by today’s New York Times article alleging that the industry is employing underage individuals in unsafe conditions, and further suggesting some of these issues may be taking place at one of our locations. Our hearts break for the young people whose stories are documented in the article.
Hearthside Food Solutions is committed to being an employer of choice and a trusted partner to our workforce and customers. We strive to be a good corporate citizen, putting our people above all else and supporting the communities in which we live and work. These commitments are steadfast and require us to constantly find ways to evolve.
We are deeply concerned about the mischaracterizations of Hearthside. Hearthside’s longstanding requirement is that everyone working in our production facilities must be at least 18 years old. We go to great lengths to vet our workforce and ensure they comply with local, state, and federal laws, and the agencies we partner with do so as well.
The story has also alleged safety issues in our workplace. Our workforce is protected by a multi-layer approach to workplace safety: PPE, safety guards, engineering controls, and regular training. The result is a company-wide cultural imperative that safety underpins all we do. The food manufacturing industry is subject to stringent federal regulations by OSHA, which includes exacting standards and compliance requirements. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hearthside’s safety performance ranks in the top 16% of all food manufacturing companies in the country with an incident rate of 0.81, far below the national average of 5.1. Additionally, the American Bakers Association has awarded Hearthside their annual safety award every year since the award’s inception in 2019.
We take the allegations in the article seriously and have committed to these immediate next steps:
We have engaged a renowned, global advisory firm, and an independent law firm, to conduct an independent review of Hearthside’s employment practices, third-party employee engagements, plant safety protocols, and our standards of business conduct. We anticipate this review to take approximately 60 days. Following the review, we are committed to enhancing our policies and practices in line with our advisors’ recommendations.
We have implemented an enhanced process to confirm all individuals working at our facilities meet Hearthside’s workforce requirements — including our minimum age of 18 policy and compliance with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Specifically, everyone entering our facilities must confirm their identity with a government-issued ID that must match the information on the facility badge.
We are reminding all employees to contact our ethics and compliance hotline (1-855-233-8092), provided in both English and Spanish, to confidentially report any workplace safety issues. We will immediately address any reports we receive through the hotline.
We engage reputable staffing agencies across the country to supplement our full-time and part-time staff with temporary workers, and they are a critical component of our talent infrastructure. Our contracts specifically require that these agencies supply us with individuals who meet local, state, and federal employment laws and regulations. We are reviewing our staffing agency policies and agreements to determine whether we should be implementing any changes for any of our staffing agency partners. Hearthside requested the following from all of its staffing agencies:
Provide immediate written certification that they have and will continue to comply with Hearthside’s contract, including their obligation to comply with all local, state, and federal laws and regulations.
Perform an internal I-9 audit on a 25% random sample size of their employees currently assigned to Hearthside by Monday, February 27, 2023.
Provide a copy of their latest third-party audit. If a third-party audit has not been completed in the last 12 months, one needs to be initiated by Friday, March 10, 2023, with a copy of completion provided to Hearthside no later than Friday, March 31, 2023. This will be an annual requirement.
We are making E-Verify a requirement for the few staffing agencies that have not yet committed to this verification method, and expect this to be fully implemented by Monday, February 27, 2023.
The claims in the article don’t match our values or how we do business. We hold ourselves and our partners to high ethical standards, and will not tolerate behavior that is unlawful, unethical, or diminishes the reputation Hearthside has worked tirelessly to build. The trust our workforce places in us to be an employer of choice is paramount, and the same goes for the trust placed in us by our customers. As we always have, we will continually improve and earn that trust every day.
Chief Executive Officer
Hearthside Food Solutions