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Workers asked about pay. Then reprisals allegedly began, with a pig's head left at a workstation.

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Tennessee's biggest pork producer is accused of retaliating against workers who asked about their pay, with one worker allegedly finding a severed pig's head at their workstation, according to the Department of Labor.

The pig's head incident allegedly occurred after the employee had asked about their wages, sparking Tosh Farms LLC management to threaten them with termination. The worker found the animal's head after returning from a meeting with managers, the Labor Department alleges.

Tosh Farms allegedly retaliated against several employees for requesting their wages, with the investigation finding that the workers were assigned tasks outside their normal duties, such as cleaning bathrooms and picking up pig waste. 

Asking about one's wages is a protected activity under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and federal law blocks employers from firing or discriminating against employees who have filed a complaint or who are working with the DOL in their investigations, the agency said.

The company's "appalling actions and clear attempts to intimidate and retaliate against its employees will not be tolerated," Tremelle Howard, the DOL's regional solicitor in Atlanta, stated in a news release.

Seth Krantz, the company's veterinarian, refuted the government's allegations and vowed to fight the claims.

"It is important to Tosh Pork that our employees are treated with dignity and respect and that our animals receive proper care," Krantz said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. "Tosh Pork seeks to follow all federal, state, and local regulations including the Fair Labor Standards Act."

He added, "Tosh Pork denies it engaged in the retaliatory conduct alleged by the DOL per its March 5, 2024 news release and intends to defend itself in court."

The federal agency has filed a complaint and motion seeking a restraining order to stop Tosh and its human resources manager from continuing its alleged retaliation. 

DOL investigators found the company owed five workers $39,375 in back wages and assessed $36,731 in civil money penalties. 

The family-run business produces swine and grows crops including corn, soybeans and wheat on 18,000 acres in Henry, Tennessee. Its pig business, Tosh Pork, sells its products for national and international distribution to Costco, JBS USA and Kroger, according to the agency.

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