Court orders Golden Guernsey Dairy to pay $1.1 million in wages to former employees

Wisconsin State Farmer

A Delaware court has ordered Golden Guernsey Dairy to pay its former employees $1.1 million in wages after failing to provide notice to employees that it was closing and filing for bankruptcy.

The former dairy processing, bottling and distribution facility employed over 100 people in Waukesha until Jan. 5, 2013, when the company shut its doors without notifying the state or its employees. Under Wisconsin state law, a company must provide at least 60 days notice to both the state and its employees that they intend to shut down, and they also must continue paying their employees until the 60 days have passed. Golden Guernsey did not pay their employees during that time.

The Department of Workforce Development's Equal Rights Division received complaints from employees and began an investigation, eventually determining the company owed its employees $1,567,229.48 in unpaid wages and benefits. The state Department of Justice placed a lien on the business following the determination.

"DOJ and DWD worked together to obtain over $1 million in wages owed to former Golden Guernsey Dairy employees. Hard-working Wisconsinites shouldn’t have to go without pay for their work because their employer went bankrupt," said Attorney General Josh Kaul.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul speaks at a news conference Aug. 26 at the Kenosha County Detention Facility.

Under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection law, the DOJ granted the unpaid wages claim priority status in the case, requiring the company to pay the wages before making any other payments. Each employee will be paid $11,750, the maximum amount allowed. The total to be paid out is $1,136,220.93, just over $430,000 short of the total owed.

However, the remaining money may still be paid out to employees that are owed more than the legal amount depending on how much is left of the bankruptcy estate.

"One of the most important functions of the Department of Workforce Development is administering state laws designed to protect the Wisconsin worker," DWD Deputy Secretary Robert Cherry said. "I am proud of the work put in by both DOJ and DWD staff on this, and many other cases."