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US company fined $650,000 for illegally employing minors in meatpacking plants

A Tennessee-based sanitation company, Fayette Janitorial Service LLC, has been ordered to pay nearly $650,000 in civil fines after a federal investigation found it hired at least 20 children to clean dangerous meatpacking facilities in Iowa and Virginia. The U.S. Department of Labor found that Fayette had illegally employed underage workers at Perdue Farms in Virginia and Seaboard Triumph Foods in Iowa, where the children were tasked with decontaminating dangerous equipment such as head splitters, jaw pullers and meat bandsaws at the plants. A 14-year-old worker was seriously injured while cleaning equipment at the Virginia plant.

In February, the Department of Labor accused Fayette of employing at least four minors at an Iowa slaughterhouse since Dec. 12, in violation of U.S. law that bans people under 18 from working in meatpacking plants due to safety risks. Fayette’s contracts with Perdue Farms and Seaboard Triumph Foods were terminated following the investigation. The company has since agreed to stop hiring minors and hire an outside consultant to monitor compliance with child labor laws for a minimum of three years, and to set up a hotline for reporting concerns about possible abuse of child labor.

The Labor Department’s findings highlight a disturbing trend of child labor violations in the United States, with recent incidents including the death of a 16-year-old worker at a Mississippi poultry plant, a fatal accident involving a 16-year-old at a lumber mill in Wisconsin, and more than 100 children were found to be illegally employed by Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI) in several meatpacking plants. PSSI paid more than $1.5 million in civil penalties in response to these violations. The federal government is cracking down on companies that violate child labor laws and endanger young workers by exposing them to dangerous workplace conditions.

Fayette Janitorial Service LLC claims to have a zero-tolerance policy for small workforces and is cooperating with the federal investigation into their hiring practices. The agreement between Fayette and the Labor Department requires the company to take proactive steps to ensure compliance with child labor laws, including hiring a third-party monitor and providing training to employees. By establishing a hotline for reporting concerns, Fayette aims to address potential abuses in the future and prevent further violations of child labor laws in their operations.

With a keen focus on protecting the safety and well-being of minors in the workforce, the federal government is calling for stronger enforcement of child labor laws in response to the growing number of violations across industries. The case of Fayette Janitorial Service LLC highlights the importance of ensuring that companies adhere to regulations that protect the rights of young workers and prevent them from being exposed to hazardous conditions. By holding employers accountable for illegal practices involving child labor, authorities can work to create a safer environment for all individuals in the labor market.