Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters


Vancouver chicken slaughterhouse sued after worker died of heart failure following years of long hours at ‘strenuous’ job

March 24, 2015 Keith Fraser The Province ----The estate of a man who died from heart failure after allegedly being overworked at a Vancouver chicken slaughterhouse is suing his employer for damages.

Bao Min Cheng, 40, a father of four, died late in the evening of March 22, 2013, shortly after working a 13-hour shift at the slaughterhouse on Pandora Street owned and operated by Hallmark Poultry Processors Ltd., according to a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court.

Cheng, a Canadian citizen who had immigrated from China in the early 2000s, worked 60 to 70 hours per week at the factory doing “repetitive and strenuous” physical labour consisting of working on a factory processing line, the suit says. His minimum-wage job in a refrigerated environment was to lift chicken carcasses from a conveyor belt and place them on a hook at or above the level of his head, says the suit.

“Most or all of the other approximately 300 workers at Hallmark chicken factory slaughterhouse were and are also Chinese immigrants who speak no or very little English and have no or very little education, and also work 60-70 hours per week,” it says. “The Employment Standards Act prohibits employers from requiring or allowing their workers to work excessive overtime.”

According to lawyer Matthew J. Jackson, who filed the suit for Cheng’s family, there is also a separate ongoing provincial investigation into allegations of excessive overtime hours at Hallmark.

“Bao Min Cheng’s death was a terrible event for his wife and their four young children, and they have suffered a great deal of hardship as a result,” Jackson said. “In my client’s view, it is very important that the government makes sure that employers comply with the law thatprohibits excessive overtime hours.”

Unspecified general and punitive damages are being sought. No response has been filed to the suit, which contains allegations that have not been proven in court. The company was contacted twice by The Province but no one was available to comment.

Cheng’s estate says the Vancouver man had “no real choice” but to work at the factory because he could not acquire other work on account of his lack of English, education or any specialized work skills or training.

“The plaintiff had a pre-existing heart condition which caused high blood pressure and for which he was taking medication prescribed by his doctor. His medical condition was not immediately life-threatening and could be treated effectively by medication and a healthy lifestyle.”

The lawsuit alleges that the company owed a “duty of care” to Cheng to ensure that their working conditions were safe and that the nature of the work required and the amount of time spent doing the work did not place employees at risk of harm or death. “A minimum reasonable step would have been to cap the number of hours worked to 50 hours per week.”

The estate alleges the company encourages the working of excessive overtime by its employees in order to meet orders for chicken meat suppliers without hiring new workers. “The defendant regularly receives large volumes of orders from clients that must be filled quickly because of customer demands and because of the short shelf life of the product.”

Cheng’s “death by overwork” was a foreseeable consequence of the company’s practice of requiring or condoning excessive overtime in light of the nature of the work and the work conditions, says the lawsuit. “Since the plaintiff’s death, his wife and children have survived on death benefits paid by Canada Pension, welfare and other government subsidies, and the generosity of friends in the community.”

Cheng had worked at the factory for about seven and a half years, the last four years lifting chicken carcasses on to hooks. Another worker at the Hallmark factory died exactly a year after Cheng, also after working excessive overtime, says the suit.

Comment: Corporate greed and profits at all costs. Suffering, death, and exploitation of the weaker while most look the other way or simply don’t care. In the absence of morality and/or good legal standards that are rigorously enforced we end up with a race to the bottom and we are in the midst of an inexorable slide right now.

Will this lawsuit cause Hallmark to change its ways or is it merely the cost of doing business? We can help shut it down by avoiding any and all animal products. Go vegan today.