Undercover Investigation Found 102 Minors Hired To Work At 13 Slaughterhouses In 8 States For Packers Sanitation Services Inc.

First Photo from the U.S. Department of Labor

Earlier this year, one of the nation’s largest food safety sanitation service providers, Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI), paid $1.5 million in civil penalties for employing minors. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that the company employed at least 102 children between the ages of 13 to 17 in hazardous job positions. The company had the children working overnight shifts at 13 meat slaughter facilities in eight states.

Based in Kieler, Wisconsin, the company unfathomably enlisted the children to work with harmful chemicals cleaning meat processing equipment, including back saws, brisket saws, and head splitters. Investigators learned at least three minors suffered injuries while working for PSSI.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the department assessed PSSI to pay $15,138 for each minor employee in violation of the law. The amount is the maximum civil money penalty allowed by federal law.

The investigation of Packers Sanitation Services Inc. began in August of 2022. On November 9th of that year, the Solicitor’s Office filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska based on evidence that PSSI had employed at least 31 children, from 13 to 17 years of age, in hazardous occupations to clean dangerous powered equipment during overnight shifts at JBS USA plants in Grand Island, Nebraska, and Worthington, Minnesota, as well as at Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, Minnesota. U.S. District Court Judge John M. Gerrard responded by issuing a temporary restraining order on November 10th, forbidding the company and its employees from committing child labor violations.

On December 6, 2022, the U.S. District Court of Nebraska entered a consent order and judgment, in which the employer agreed to comply with the FLSA’s child labor provisions in all of its operations nationwide, and to take significant steps to ensure future compliance with the law, 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,” Principal Deputy Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, Jessica Looman, said in a statement. “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.”

“Our investigation found Packers Sanitation Services’ systems flagged some young workers as minors, but the company ignored the flags. When the Wage and Hour Division arrived with warrants, the adults, who had recruited, hired, and supervised these children, tried to derail our efforts to investigate their employment practices,” stated Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Michael Lazzeri.

The division’s investigation included the following locations:

Name of processor

City

State

Affected minors

Penalties Assessed

George’s Inc.

Batesville

AR

4

$60,552

Tyson Food Inc.

Green Forest

AR

6

$90,828

JBS Foods

Greeley

CO

4

$60,552

Maple Leaf Farms Inc.

Milford

IN

2

$30,276

Cargill Inc.

Dodge City

KS

26

$393,588

Turkey Valley Farms

Marshall

MN

2

$30,276

Buckhead Meat of Minnesota

St. Cloud

MN

1

$15,138

JBS Foods

Worthington

MN

22

$333,036

Gibbon Packing Co.

Gibbon

NE

1

$15,138

JBS Foods

Grand Island

NE

27

$408,726

Greater Omaha Packing Co. Inc

Omaha

NE

5

$75,690

Tyson Food Inc.

Goodlettsville

TN

1

$15,138

Cargill Inc.

Fiona

TX

1

$15,138

Total penalties paid by PSSI

$1,544,076

“The Department of Labor has made it absolutely clear that violations of child labor laws will not be tolerated,” noted Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “No child should ever be subject 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.”

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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