Judgement Reached in Sanitation Contractor Child Labor Case
A federal court in Nebraska this week entered a consent order and judgment in which Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD – one of the nation’s largest providers of food safety sanitation services – agreed to immediately comply with child labor laws at all facilities nationwide and to take significant steps to ensure future compliance, including employing an outside compliance specialist.
The action comes after a Nov. 10, 2022, order by U.S. District Court Judge John M. Gerrard that temporarily restrained the company and its employees from violating the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, identified by the U.S. Department of Labor. The department’s investigation into the company’s child labor violations continues.
On Nov. 9, 2022, the department filed a complaint after its Wage and Hour Division discovered that PSSI had employed at least 31 children – from 13 to 17 years of age – in hazardous occupations. Investigators determined that the children were cleaning dangerous powered equipment to fulfill sanitation contracts during overnight shifts at JBS USA plants in Grand Island, Nebraska, and Worthington, Minnesota, and at Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, Minnesota. Since the issuance of the temporary restraining order, the number of minor children verified by the department to be employed by PSSI is at least 50 across two additional locations with different processors, including George’s Inc. and Greater Omaha Packing Co. This number and may increase as the investigation continues.
“By entering the temporary injunction and the consent order and judgment, the federal court has made it absolutely clear to Packers Sanitation Services Inc. and other employers that they will be held accountable for ensuring compliance with child labor laws and policing their supervising employees to uphold the law,” says Regional Solicitor of Labor Christine Heri in Chicago.
The investigation began on Aug. 24, 2022, after the division received credible information alleging Packers Sanitation assigned minors to work in hazardous occupations. In response, the division executed warrants for the company’s operations at three plants, its local offices and at PSSI’s Keiler, Wisconsin, corporate office.
“The Wage and Hour Division will complete its investigation and ensure children are not working in violation of federal laws at this company or at others,” said Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Michael Lazzeri in Chicago. “Across the nation, we’ve seen child labor violations increase 50 percent since 2018. There are restrictions on the types of jobs young workers under 17 can do, and on the number of hours and times 14 and 15-year-olds can work. This case should serve as a stark reminder for all employers that the U.S. Department of Labor will not tolerate violations of the law, especially those that put vulnerable children at risk.”
Under terms of the agreement, Packers Sanitation Services agreed to:
• Immediately review existing policies and training materials for compliance with child labor laws and ensure all employees engaged in the hiring and on-boarding of workers follows all applicable child labor laws.
• Hire a third-party consultant or compliance specialist within 90 days to provide quarterly child labor compliance training to all management personnel for a period of 3 years and annually thereafter.
• Work with the compliance specialist, prior to any training, to review and revise as necessary company policies and procedures for compliance with the FLSA’s child labor provisions.
• Allow the compliance specialist to monitor and audit PSSI’s compliance with the child labor provisions for a period of 3 years including periodic, unannounced site visits of at least six facilities on a quarterly basis.
• Include – within 30 days of the compliance specialist in place – a child labor provision in its contract template provided to clients, for contracts executed after entry of this order, with the name and contact information of the compliance specialist for any questions or concerns regarding potential child labor at their establishment and attach Fact Sheet #43 on Child Labor in Non-Agriculture Occupations.
• Impose sanctions, including termination and/or suspension, upon any management personnel responsible for child labor violations after the date of the court order.
• Notify the department – within 45 days after the entry of the court order – of each individual under 18 years of age whose employment was terminated after the date of the entry of the order.
• Post the consent order and judgment at each of its own facilities where employee notices are customarily posted for a period of not less than 60 days.
• Provide the Department of Labor publication Fact Sheet # 43 regarding the child labor provisions of the FLSA to each of its employees, in the language used by the employee.
Additionally, for a period of six months, the department will promptly notify Packers Sanitation in writing of any individuals it believes to be employed in violation of FLSA child labor provisions and any other alleged violation of the consent order and judgment. PSSI then has 10 days to remedy any such violation, before the Department of Labor proceeds with any action for contempt of the consent order and judgment.
PSSI provides contract sanitation services, chemical innovations, pest prevention and other solutions for about 700 food processing facilities nationwide and employs about 17,000 workers.
The FLSA prohibits minors under the age of 14 from working and 14- and 15-year-old employees from working later than 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day and past 7 p.m., the remainder of the year. Additionally, they cannot work more than 3 hours on a school day, 8 hours on a non-school day or more than 18 hours per week. The law also prohibits young workers under age 18 from operating motor vehicles, forklifts and using other hazardous equipment. To assist employers in avoiding violations, and inform young workers and their parents, the division has published its “Seven Child Labor Best Practices for Employers.”