The JBS Beef Plant in Grand Island, NE, the end-user in an apparent child labor scheme, is not being touched by the civil enforcement action. The labor contractor JBS was using, however, is named by a Consent Order and Judgment signed by federal Judge John M. Gerrard.
For the labor contractor, Packers Sanitation Services, the Order could result in additional fines when the U.S. Department of Labor finishes its investigation. The Order resolves the Labor Department’s civil action involving Packers Sanitation Services Inc. to enforce the child labor provisions of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
Numerous evidentiary statements were filed with the U.S. District Court for Nebraska before the Order was signed. Shannon Rebolledo, regional enforcement coordinator for the Wage and Hour Division for the Labor Department’s Midwest Regional Office, said she identified 19 minors under age 18 working for Packers Sanitation Services “at various plants across the country.”
One was under 14, four were 15 years old, five were 16 years old and nine were 17 years old, her statement said.
Labor’s original complaint said that children working overnight at the JBS Beef Plant in Grand Island, NE, are required to clock in and out of their shifts by entering their ID number into a biometric time lock. The time clock takes pictures of each employee’s face, using facial recognition technology to log in and out each employee for each shift. Upon clocking in, the children would trade their normal street clothes for JBS badges, raincoats, waterproof overalls, or pants along with hard hats, goggles, gloves and earplugs.
After overnight shifts, the child laborers report being worn out by school the next day.
Packers Sanitation Services is a contract labor service reportedly employing more than 15,000 employees in meat industry to companies like JBS. The company is based in Wisconsin.
The Order permanently enjoins Packers Sanitation Services along with its “agents, servants, employees and all persons in active concert or participation” from violating federal labor laws. The same line-up of players is also ordered to make, keep, and preserve records showing wages, hours, and working conditions for each of its employees.
Within 90 days of the Order, Packers Sanitation Services must hire a third-party consultant or compliance specialist to provide child labor compliance training. The compliance specialist will review the company’s policies and procedures.
After the compliance specialist is hired, the company must within 30 days provide contact language about child labor law provisions. The company agrees to fire any management personnel responsible for child labor law violations in the future.
The U.S. Department of Labor is permitted to complete its current investigation, which may result in the assessment of monetary penalties during the next 90 days.
Packers Sanitation Services promises not to take retaliatory actions against any employees, including family members of minor children it employed. For the next six months, the Department of Labor will inform the company of child labor hires it has made. It gets 10 days to “cure” any child labor hire it learns about
Further hearings in the matter were canceled.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)