BALTIMORE – Three major poultry companies who were accused of suppressing wages of current and former workers moved a step closer to settling an ongoing lawsuit. Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., Sanderson Farms Inc. and Wayne Farms LLC signed a preliminary approval of a settlement of $84.8 million that is being reviewed by the US District Court of Maryland.

A document from Sept. 9, shows that Cargill will pay $15 million, Sanderson will pay $28.3 million and Wayne Farms will pay $31.5 million. Court information showed that about $134.6 million was the recovery total by class members so far. 

The law firms representing the poultry workers acknowledged in the approval document that “continuing to litigate this case against settling defendants would have required significant additional resources and materially increased the complexity of the case.”

Cargill provided MEAT+POULTRY with a comment on the settlement. 

“The settlement is not an admission of guilt and Cargill denies any wrongdoing,” said Dan Sullivan, spokesperson for Cargill. “Nonetheless, we are pleased to put the cost and distraction of litigation behind us and look forward to continuing our work to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way.” 

Wayne Farms also provides a statement on the agreement.

“Although Wayne-Sanderson Farms has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, the company is glad to have settled the litigation and is moving forward with successful integration and a positive outlook for future operations as one company,” a company spokesperson said. 

Back in July, the US Department of Justice issued a similar consent decree for the three poultry companies regarding the workers affected in the alleged conspiracy.

The DOJ said in its proposed consent decree that the three companies would not share competitively sensitive information about workers’ compensation and impose a compliance monitor for 10 years. 

Co-defendants Tyson Foods Inc. and Perdue Farms Inc. have yet to settle in this case.

On July 22, a joint venture between Continental Grain Co., of which Wayne Farms is a subsidiary, and Cargill finalized the acquisition of Sanderson Farms Inc. for $4.5 billion.