A major US food hygiene company employed dozens of children as young as 13 to work in hazardous conditions during long shifts at the cemetery, federal officials said.
According to the Labor Department, Packers Sanitation Services allegedly used child labor at three meatpacking plants in two states.
The DOL has asked a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order and nationwide injunction against the company for its alleged crimes at the factories in Grand Island, Nebraska, Worthington, Minnesota and Marshall, Minnesota.
More than 30 young employees, all under the age of 18, were assigned to clean up hazardous motorized equipment during night shifts, according to the department.
Several, including a 13-year-old worker, suffered “severe” chemical burns, according to a federal lawsuit against the company.
Many miner workers were tasked with cleaning heavy tools on a factory floor, including beef dehorners, chest saws and a “190-pound saw used to split cow carcasses in half lengthwise. the length,” the costume says.
After finishing their early morning shifts, several children went straight to their colleges, where they routinely fell asleep in class, the filing said.
Many children worked between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. or 7:00 a.m., the document says. Young workers worked five or six days a week, with many working seven days a week.
The investigation was launched in August after a “credible” source came forward alleging the company was employing minors in unsafe conditions, the DOL said.
Upon learning of the investigation, PSSI officials “attempted to thwart or tamper with the collection of evidence in several ways,” the filing said.
Supervisors reportedly told investigators they were not allowed to take photos and attempted to prevent investigators from interviewing workers in addition to deleting documents containing evidence.
PSSI has denied the allegations, telling NBC News that it “has an absolute company-wide prohibition on employing anyone under the age of 18 and zero tolerance for any violation of this policy – period.” .
“While rogue individuals could of course seek to engage in fraud or identity theft, we are confident in our company’s strict compliance policies and will vigorously defend ourselves against these allegations,” a gatekeeper said. word.
Federal law prohibits children under the age of 14 from working in any capacity. Children aged 14 and 15 are only allowed to work before 7 p.m. during the school year and no later than 9 p.m. during the summer. Children cannot work more than three hours on school days, eight hours on non-school days or more than 18 hours per week.
It is also illegal for children to use dangerous equipment that the PSSI may have given to children.
“Federal laws were established decades ago to prevent employers from profiting by putting children at risk,” said Michael Lazzeri, regional wage and hour administrator in Chicago.
“Taking advantage of children, exposing them to workplace hazards – and interfering with a federal investigation – demonstrates Packers Sanitation Services Inc.’s blatant disregard for the law and for the welfare of young workers.”
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