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Sanitation company PSSI, hired by JBS, issued permanent injunction regarding child labor violations

As part of the order, PSSI will take “significant steps” to ensure future compliance with child labor laws, including hiring an outside compliance specialist.

JBS in Worthington
An employee checks in at the main gate for night shift at the JBS Worthington processing facility in mid-November.
Tim Middagh/The Globe
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LINCOLN, Nebraska — Last week, a federal court in Nebraska entered a consent order and judgment in which Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD agreed to comply with child labor laws at all of the facilities where it cleans. The judgment comes nearly one month after the Department of Labor accused the company of employing children at multiple locations, including the JBS plant in Worthington.

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As part of the order, PSSI will take “significant steps” to ensure future compliance with child labor laws, including hiring an outside compliance specialist, according to a news release from the Department of Labor.

The decision comes just days after PSSI, one of the nation’s largest providers of food safety sanitation services, filed a lengthy brief arguing that the injunction should not be issued and that the company had done its “reasonable duty” to comply with child labor laws.

As part of a still ongoing investigation into PSSI’s reported child labor violations, the DOL alleged in early November that the company had employed at least 31 children — one individual as young as 13 — in hazardous jobs.

Investigators determined the children were cleaning dangerous powered equipment during overnight shifts at JBS USA plants in Grand Island, Nebraska, and Worthington, and at Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall. According to the complaint filed in November, several children had suffered chemical burns and other injuries during their employment with PSSI.

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Since the issuance of a temporary restraining order by a U.S. District Court Judge, PSSI has been accused of employing at least 50 minors at two additional locations with different processors, including George’s Inc. and Greater Omaha Packing Co. The department stated in a news release that this number 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,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Christine Heri in Chicago.

The investigation began on Aug. 24, after the division received credible information alleging PSSI 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.

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“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% 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 the terms of the agreement, PSSI agreed to the immediate review of existing policies and training materials for compliance with child labor laws, in addition to hiring 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 three years and annually thereafter.

The compliance specialist will work with PSSI to review and revise company policies and procedures with the FLSA’s child labor provisions, as well as monitor and audit the company’s compliance.

As part of the agreement, PSSI will also be required to impose sanctions, including termination or suspension, upon any management personnel responsible for child labor violations following the court order.

Additionally, for a period of six months, the department will promptly notify PSSI 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.

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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