US poultry workers forced to wear nappies, report claims

Oxfam America says employees at largest producers are denied bathroom breaks

Workers in plants run by the largest US poultry producers are regularly being denied bathroom breaks and as a result some are reduced to wearing diapers while working on the processing line, Oxfam America has said in a report.

”It’s not just their dignity that suffers: they are in danger of serious health problems,” said Oxfam America, the US arm of the UK-based global development group.

The group works for a “just world without poverty” and focuses on topics ranging from refugees in Greece to malnutrition.

The report cited unnamed workers from Tyson Foods Inc, Pilgrim's Pride Corp, Perdue Farms Inc and Sanderson Farms Inc who said supervisors mock them, ignore requests and threaten punishment or firing.


When they are allowed to go to the bathroom, they have to wait in long lines, even though they are given limited time for the break, according to the report.

Some workers have urinated or defecated themselves while working because they can’t hold on any longer, the report said.

Some workers “restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees”, Oxfam said.

Conditions for workers in the meat industry have been notoriously poor since the days of Upton Sinclair,  the American author who wrote of such abuses in his 1906 novel, The Jungle.

The conditions present difficulties, especially for menstruating or pregnant women, the report said.

Workers could also face medical problems, including urinary tract infections, as managers tell some workers to eat and drink less to avoid going to the bathroom, according to the report.

Company responses

Tyson said in a statement that it does “not tolerate the refusal of requests to use the restroom”.

Perdue said the “anecdotes reported are not consistent” with the company’s policies and practices.

Pilgrim’s Pride said that “any allegations of the nature claimed by Oxfam, if proven, would be clear violations of company policy and would result in disciplinary action”.

Tthe National Chicken Council and the US Poultry and Egg Association said in a joint statement that the anecdotes in the Oxfam report don't represent the whole industry.

“We’re troubled by these claims, but also question this group’s efforts to paint the whole industry with a broad brush based on a handful of anonymous claims,” the groups said.

“We believe such instances are extremely rare and that US poultry companies work hard to prevent them.