Company to Fix Child Labor Violations

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- A packer sanitation company that employed at least 31 minors in what the U.S. Department of Labor said were "hazardous occupations" working overnight at JBS USA packing plants in the Midwest, entered into a consent decree with the DOL to correct the violations.

Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD was ordered by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska in Lincoln to take a number of actions, including hiring a third-party consultant to provide quarterly child labor compliance training to management personnel at the company.

Companies can be fined up to $11,000 for each employee who is the subject of a child labor violation.

"Since the issuance of the temporary restraining order, the number of minor children verified by the department to be employed by PSSI is at least 50 across two additional locations with different processors, including George's Inc. and Greater Omaha Packing Co," the DOL said in a news release.

"This number may increase as the investigation continues."

Prompted by an ongoing investigation, the DOL asked a federal court in Nebraska last month for a temporary national restraining order against the sanitation company.

According to the complaint filed in Nebraska, Packers Sanitation Services based in Wisconsin employed children ages 13 to 17 to perform jobs including cleaning power equipment during overnight shifts at JBS plants in Grand Island, Nebraska, and Worthington, Minnesota.

While the legal action was initiated in Nebraska, the DOL said in its complaint an "initial evidence review indicates PSSI may employ minor children under similar conditions at its other 400 operations across the country."

The DOL said it is conducting a full investigation into PSSI's labor practices, after receiving a tip from a law enforcement agency in Nebraska.

Under the terms of the agreement, the company also be required to allow a compliance specialist to monitor and audit the company's compliance with the child labor provisions for three years to include "periodic, unannounced site visits of at least six facilities on a quarterly basis."

Packer Sanitation Services also would be required to impose sanctions including termination or suspension of management personnel responsible for "child labor violations."

The company will be required to notify the DOL of each employee under 18 whose employment is terminated after the date of the court order.

As part of its investigation, the DOL found a 13-year-old suffered a "severe chemical burn" while cleaning at a JBS plant in Grand Island, Nebraska. According to the brief, two 14-year-old workers were interviewed by the DOL at the Grand Island plant, telling investigators they worked shifts of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits minors under the age of 14 from working and 14- and 15-year-old employees from working in non-agriculture jobs later than 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day and past 7 p.m. the remainder of the year, according to the DOL.

In addition, those children are not allowed to work more than three hours on a school day, eight hours on a non-school day or more than 18 hours per week. The law also prohibits minors from operating motor vehicles, forklifts and using other hazardous equipment.

In a previous statement to DTN, PSSI said the company prohibits the employment of anyone under age 18 and was "surprised the DOL has taken this action given PSSI's corporate office has been cooperating with their inquiry, producing extensive documents and responses."

Read more on DTN:

"Child Labor Violations Alleged," https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DTNeeley

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