Company Fined $650K for Hiring Children to Clean Meat Processing Facilities

The children worked overnight sanitation shifts at two slaughtering and meat packing facilities.

Kristen Kazarian, Managing Editor

May 7, 2024

3 Min Read
Company Fined $650K for Hiring Children to Clean Meat Processing Facilities
The Labor Department alleged that Fayette used 15 underage workers at a Perdue Farms plant and at least nine at Seaboard.Mikael Vaisanen / The Image Bank via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday that Fayette Janitorial Service entered into a consent judgment in which the company agrees to nearly $650,000 in civil penalties and the court-ordered mandate that it no longer employs minors.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prevents children under age 18 from being employed in hazardous occupations common in meat and poultry slaughtering, processing, rendering and packing operations.

An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found Somerville, TN-based Fayette Janitorial Service LLC — operating as Fayette Industrial — employed at least 24 children, some as young as 13 years old, on overnight sanitation shifts at two slaughtering and meat packing facilities: Seaboard Triumph Foods in Sioux City, IA, and Perdue Farms in Accomac, VA.

In February, the department obtained a preliminary injunction against Fayette Janitorial Service LLC in the US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa to stop the company’s illegal employment of children at its workplaces in more than 30 states. Fayette agreed to nationwide compliance six days after the department filed its motion for a temporary restraining order.

The February filing indicated federal investigators believed at least four children had still been working at one Iowa slaughterhouse as of Dec. 12.

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. They also learned at least one child had suffered severe injuries at the Perdue Farms plant as the child tried to remove debris from dangerous machinery.

“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,” said Regional Solicitor Christine Heri. “Children in hazardous occupations drove the Fair Labor Standards Act’s passage in 1938. Yet in 2024, we still find US 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.”

The order and judgement also requires Fayette Industrial to do the following:

  • Hire a third-party consultant or compliance specialist with knowledge and experience in complying with the FLSA’s child labor provisions within 90 days.

  • Direct the compliance monitor to review company policies immediately, provide training at all facilities the company operates and monitor and audit Fayette’s compliance for at least 3 years.

  • Maintain accurate records of all employees, including date of birth and work tasks assigned.

  • Impose disciplinary sanctions, including termination and/or suspension, on any management personnel responsible for child labor violations after the date of the consent judgement.

  • Establish a toll-free hotline number for people to seek guidance and/or to report child labor compliance concerns anonymously.

During the last fiscal year, department investigators found more than 5,800 children had been employed in violation of federal child labor laws.

About the Author(s)

Kristen Kazarian

Managing Editor

Kristen Kazarian has been a writer and editor for more than three decades. She has worked at several consumer magazines and B2B publications in the fields of food and beverage, packaging, processing, women's interest, local news, health and nutrition, fashion and beauty, automotive, and computers.

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