Wisconsin Company Pays $1.5 Million Fine For Putting Children To Work In Meatpacking Plant

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Mary Rooke Commentary and Analysis Writer
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A sanitation company based in Kieler, Wisconsin, paid over $1 million in fines after getting caught illegally employing over 100 children to work in dangerous jobs, a federal investigation found.

Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD (PSSI), one of the nation’s largest food sanitation services, placed 102 children between 13 to 17 years old in hazardous occupations, including cleaning dangerous equipment at meatpacking plants, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division.

Federal investigators found that — in addition to cleaning meat processing equipment, including back saws, brisket saws and head splitters —  children worked with hazardous chemicals and were employed in overnight shifts at 13 meat processing facilities in eight U.S. states.

Most of the 102 child laborers were working at the JBS Foods plant in Nebraska and Minnesota and Cargill Inc.‘s plant in Dodge City, Kansas, according to the DOL. PSSI also employed minors at George’s Inc. (Arkansas), Tyson Foods Inc. (Arkansas and Tennessee), JBS Foods (Colorado), Maple Leaf Farms Inc. (Indiana), Turkey Valley Farms (Tennessee), Buckhead Meat of Minnesota (Minnesota), Gibbon Packing Co. (Nebraska), Greater Omaha Packing Co. Inc. (Nebraska) and Cargill Inc. (Texas).

Adult employees charged with supervising the minor workers at PSSI “tried to derail [DOL] efforts to investigate their employment practices,” according to Wage and Hour regional administrator Michael Lazzeri. (RELATED: Police Arrest High School Football Coach For Allegedly Possessing Child Pornography)

At least three children employed by PSSI under these conditions suffered injuries, according to the DOL. PSSI was fined the maximum civil money penalty, $15,138, for each child employed in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The company paid $1.5 million on Feb. 16, according to the Labor Department.

“The Department of Labor has made it absolutely clear that violations of child labor laws will not be tolerated,” Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda said. “No child should ever be subjected to the conditions found in this investigation. The courts have upheld the department’s rightful authority to execute federal court-approved search warrants and compelled this employer to change their hiring practices to ensure compliance with the law. Let this case be a powerful reminder that all workers in the United States are entitled to the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act and that an employer who violates wage laws will be held accountable.”