Company fined for employing minors in hazardous work at Nebraska meat plants

OMAHA, Neb. (Nebraska) – The US Department of Labor has fined one of the country’s largest food safety sanitation providers more than $1.5 million for employing children in hazardous occupations, including more than 30 in Nebraska.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Friday that it fined Kieler, Wisconsin-based Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD (PSSI) for hiring 102 children ages 13 to 17 for hazardous work at 13 plastic processing plants. meat in eight states.

The children were allegedly using dangerous chemicals, working night shifts and cleaning razor-sharp meat-processing equipment, including backsaws, brisket saws and butt splitters.

The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits minors from using — or cleaning — meat processing machines.

According to the US Department of Labor, at least three minors were injured while working for PSSI.

An investigation began in August 2022, and a complaint was filed by the Attorney’s Office in the US District Court of Nebraska on November 9, 2022, alleging that PSSI employed at least 31 minors to clean potentially hazardous powered equipment during night shifts at JBS USA plants in two states.

Of the eight states involved, Nebraska saw the largest number of minors allegedly employed in hazardous work by PSSI, including 27 minors at JBS Foods on Grand Island, five at Greater Omaha Packing Co. Inc, and one at Gibbon Packing Co.

The US Department of Labor says at least 102 children have been hired by the PSSI to clean up at potentially dangerous sites. (US Department of Labor)

“The child labor violations in this case were systemic and impacted eight states, clearly pointing to a company-wide failure by Packers’ health services at every level,” said Jessica Looman, principal deputy director of payroll and salaries. time. “These children should never have been employed in meatpacking plants and that can only happen when employers fail to take responsibility to prevent child labor violations in the first place.”

PSSI was fined $15,138 for each minor employed in hazardous work, which is the maximum allowed under federal law.

The US Department of Labor also alleges that PSSI did not fully cooperate with the investigation.

“Our investigation found that Packers Sanitation Services’ systems flagged some young workers as minors, but the company ignored the reports. When the Wage and Hour Division came with warrants, the adults — who had recruited, hired and supervised these children — tried to derail our efforts to investigate their employment practices,” said Wage Regional Administrator and Hour Michael Lazzeri in Chicago.

PSSI paid more than $1.5 million in penalties on Feb. 16.

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