The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) asked a federal court for a temporary restraining order against Packers Sanitation Services for employing teen workers to clean hazardous equipment.
This stems from a Wage and Hour Division investigation that found the company employed at least 31 children – from ages 13 to 17 – in hazardous occupations.
13-year-old, other teens injured while cleaning
The investigation began Aug. 24, 2022, after the Wage and Hour Division “received credible information alleging the company assigned minors to work in hazardous occupations.” This led to the execution of warrants for information on the company’s operations at its corporate office, local offices and three JBS USA plants where the minors were assigned to work.
Teen workers were discovered performing hazardous tasks such as cleaning dangerous powered equipment during overnight shifts to fulfill sanitation contracts at JBS USA plants in Grand Island, Nebraska; Worthington, Minnesota; and Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, Minnesota.
Investigators also found that several of the teen workers – including one 13-year-old – suffered caustic chemical burns and other injuries while working for Packers at the JBS USA plants.
Company allegedly interfered with investigation
Filed in the U.S. District Court for Nebraska, the nationwide temporary restraining order and injunction would stop Packers – one of the nation’s leading providers of food safety sanitation – from illegally employing dozens of minor-aged workers while the DOL continues its investigation.
The DOL’s filing accuses Packers of interfering with an investigation by intimidating teen workers to stop them from cooperating with investigators. The company is also accused of deleting and manipulating employment files.
Minors aren’t allowed to operate hazardous equipment
The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits minors under the age of 14 from working and 14- and 15-year-old employees from working later than 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day and past 7 p.m., the remainder of the year. Teen workers can’t work more than three hours on a school day, more than eight hours on a non-school day or more than 18 hours per week.
The law also prohibits minors from operating motor vehicles or forklifts and from using other kinds of hazardous equipment.