LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A federal investigation has uncovered that a nationwide food safety sanitation service provider illegally employed more than 100 children in hazardous jobs in Arkansas and seven other states.
According to U.S. officials, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI) employed 102 children, ages 13-17, to work in dangerous conditions throughout the country.
Officials said that the company had the children working overnight shifts at 13 meat processing facilities in these eight states: Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas.
U.S. officials listed George’s Inc. in Batesville and Tyson Food Inc. in Green Forest as the locations investigated in Arkansas. There were 10 minors affected and more than $150,000 penalties assessed between the two locations.
Officials said that the division found that the children were working with hazardous chemicals and dangerous work equipment including back saws, brisket saws and head splitters. Investigators also learned that at least three minors were injured while for PSSI.
“These children should never have been employed in meat packing plants and this can only happen when employers do no take responsibility to prevent child labor violations from occurring in the first place,” Principal Deputy Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division Jessica Looman said.
Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Michael Lazzeri in Chicago said that the PSSI systems flagged some workers as minors but the company ignored the issue.
“When the Wage and Hour Division arrived with warrants, the adults – who had recruited, hired and supervised these children – tried to derail our efforts to investigate their employment practices,” Lazzeri said.
The department assessed PSSI $15,138 for each minor employed in violation of the law, totaling to $1.5 million in civil money penalties. The company paid the amount Thursday, Feb. 16.