The record setting $1.5 million in civil money penalties Packers Sanitation Services Inc. paid for illegally employing minors to perform hazardous duties in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) reminds other employers of their potential exposure for violating child labor laws.
Federal Child Labor Laws
The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor rules affecting full- and part-time workers in the private sector and in the Federal, state and local governments that vary depending upon the age of the young worker and his or her occupation. In addition to these federal rules, states also generally impose their own child labor regulations. Businesses generally must comply with both.
As part of the federal rules, the FLSA both restricts hours of work for workers less than 18 years of age based on the age of the worker and generally prohibits employment of workers less than 18 years of age in nonagricultural occupations that the DOL finds and declares in a hazardous occupation order (“HO”) as particularly hazardous for 16- and 17-year-old minors, or detrimental to their health or well-being. In addition, Child Labor Regulation No. 3 also bans 14- and 15-year-olds from performing any work proscribed by the HOs. These currently include a HO that generally prohibits child worker employment in occupations involving operation or cleaning of power driven meat-processing machines, slaughtering and meat packing plants or employment in 16 other HOs.
Packers $1.5 Million Penalty
Packers’ payment of the $1.5 million civil money penalties resulted from an U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (“DOL”) investigation of Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD, for violating the FLSA child labor rules.
The DOL imposed the civil penalties after finding the company employed at least 102 children from 13 to 17 years of age in hazardous occupations and had them working overnight shifts at 13 meat processing facilities in eight states.
The division began the Packers Sanitation Services Inc. investigation in August 2022 based on evidence that the company that provides cleaning services under contract to some of the nation’s largest meat and poultry producers 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, and at Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, Minnesota. Subsequent investigations found similar violations in Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Bebraska and Texas.
“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,” said Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Michael Lazzeri in Chicago.
DOL assessed Packers $15,138 for each minor-aged employee who was employed in violation of the law. The amount is the maximum civil money penalty allowed by federal law.
When the Solicitor’s Office filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court November 9, 2022, U.S. District Court Judge John M. Gerrard responded by issuing a temporary restraining order on November 10, 2022, 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 Packers 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.
On February 16, 2023, PSSI paid $1.5 million in civil money penalties.
The DOL announcement of the penalty warns other businesses against violating the child labor laws. “The Department of Labor has made it absolutely clear that violations of child labor laws will not be tolerated,” said 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.”
In light of this warning, other businesss should ensure their operations are not improperly using child labor.
We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.
Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group, HR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.
About the Author
Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 35+ years of workforce and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, scholarship and thought leadership.
A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Vice Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her 35 year career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns. As an ongoing component of this work, she regularly advises, represents and defends businesses on FLSA and other wage and. Our, compensation, benefits, worker classification and other workforce concerns and has published and spoken extensively on these concerns.
Ms. Stamer also is widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on workforce, compensation, and other operations, risk management, compliance and regulatory and public affairs concerns.
For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.
Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here.
IMPORTANT NOTICE ABOUT THIS COMMUNICATION
If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.
NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ reserve the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication. Readers acknowledge and agree to the conditions of this Notice as a condition of their access of this publication.
Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.
©2023 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Limited non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™