$1.5 Million Penalty Warns Other Businesses Against Child Labor Law Violations

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.

More Information

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

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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

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