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Janitorial Firm Illegally Employed Minors as Young as 13 for Overnight Cleaning at Meat Processing Plants

Cleaning Company Hit with $650K Fine for Illegal Child Labor Practices
Source: Unsplash

The children were employed at two slaughtering and meat packing facilities in Iowa and Virginia.

May 11 2024, Published 11:14 a.m. ET

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A Tennessee-based janitorial company has agreed to pay nearly $650,000 in penalties and to cease illegally employing children following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.

As part of the court-approved consent judgment, Fayette Janitorial Service LLC will pay $649,304 in civil penalties, hire a third party to implement policies to prevent the illegal employment of children and establish a system for reporting concerns about the illegal employment of children, federal officials said.

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An investigation by the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division found Fayette Janitorial Service LLC, operating as Fayette Industrial, employed at least 24 children as young as 13 years old on overnight sanitation shifts at two slaughtering and meat packing facilities: Seaboard Triumph Foods LLC in Sioux City, Iowa, and Perdue Farms in Accomac, Va.

The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits the employment of children under 18 in hazardous occupations in meat and poultry slaughtering, processing, rendering and packing operations.

According to federal investigators, at least one child suffered "severe injuries" when trying to remove debris from "dangerous machinery" at the Perdue Farms plant.

"At the Seaboard Triumph facility, federal investigators witnessed children concealing their faces and carrying glittered school backpacks before starting their overnight shift and learned children were assigned on overnight shifts to use corrosive cleaners to clean dangerous kill floor equipment, including head splitters, jaw pullers, bandsaws and neck clippers," the agency said.

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“The Department of Labor is determined to stop our nation’s children from being exploited and endangered in jobs they should never have been near,” Regional Solicitor Christine Heri said in a statement. “Children in hazardous occupations drove the Fair Labor Standards Act’s passage in 1938. Yet in 2024, we still find U.S. companies employing children in risky jobs, jeopardizing their safety for profit. We are committed to using all strategies to stop and prevent unlawful child labor and holding all employers legally responsible for their actions.”

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The agency said that during the last fiscal year, it had found more than 5,800 children employed in violation of labor laws.

“Every employer has a legal and moral obligation to make certain they are not employing children in dangerous jobs,” said Wage and Hour Midwest Regional Administrator Michael Lazzeri. “With this agreement, we are ensuring Fayette Janitorial Service takes immediate and significant steps to ensure they never put children in harm’s way again.”

TMX contributed to this report.

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