One of the largest food safety sanitation service providers in the U.S. has paid $1.5 million in fines after a federal investigation found the company employed 102 teen workers in hazard occupations.
Wisconsin-based Packers Sanitation Services Inc. was the target of a Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation that found the company employed teen workers from ages 13 to 17 in hazardous occupations at 13 meat processing facilities in eight states.
3 teens suffer injuries cleaning saws, head splitters
Investigators found that the children were working with hazardous chemicals and cleaning meat processing equipment, including back saws, brisket saws and head splitters. At least three of the teen workers had suffered injuries while performing these tasks.
The Wage and Hour Division assessed a $15,138 fine under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for each teen worker who was employed in violation of child labor laws. This amount is the maximum allowed under federal law.
‘A corporate-wide failure at all levels’
The investigation began in August 2022, leading to the filing of a complaint against the company in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska based on evidence found at JBS USA meat packing plants in Nebraska and Minnesota.
A restraining order against Packers was issued Nov. 10, 2022, forbidding the company and its employees from committing child labor violations. On Dec. 6, 2022, the court entered a consent order and judgment, resulting in Packers agreeing to comply with the FLSA and take significant steps to ensure future compliance, including employing an outside compliance specialist.
“The child labor violations in this case were systemic and reached across eight states, and clearly indicate a corporate-wide failure by Packers Sanitation Services at all levels,” said Jessica Looman, Principal Deputy Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. “These children should never have been employed in meat packing plants and this can only happen when employers do not take responsibility to prevent child labor violations from occurring in the first place.”