Packers Sanitation Services, a company that sanitizes food packaging plants, have been charged with violating child labor laws and hit with a $1.5 million fine for employing at least 100 children as young as 13 years of age.
Despite having strict child labor laws in place, some US companies still manage to skirt the rules. Eventually, the federal government catches them, as evidenced by the recent news about Packers Sanitation Services. The sanitation company is now facing a hefty fine for employing children.
The major sanitation company helps sanitize food processing plants nationwide, including meat packing plants. The Department of Labor recently investigated Packers Sanitation Services over claims that it illegally used child labor. After finding extensive evidence backing the allegations, the Department of Labor fined the company $1.5 million.
According to the BBC, Packers Sanitation Services employed over 100 teenagers between 13 and 17 at 13 plants in eight states. That is despite a strict company policy prohibiting the employment of anyone under 18. But the news gets worse.
The investigation found serious safety breaches on behalf of the company. “It found at least three teens were injured on the job, which involved using hazardous chemicals to clean equipment such as back saws and head splitters. Officials said the firm had overlooked internal flags and that some managers later tried to obstruct the inquiry.”
The Department of Labor called the child labor violations a “systemic” failure at all levels. Some potentially good news is that the company plans to take actions that prevent similar violations in the future. It said, “We are fully committed to working with [the Department of Labor] to make additional improvements to enforce our prohibition of employing anyone under the age of 18.”
While it is not uncommon for American teens to find jobs early on, the federal government has strict rules governing child labor. The minimum employment age is 14. And no 14 or 15-year-old can work past 7 pm during school or 9 pm in the summer.
And “Laws also prohibit them from working more than three hours on school days, more than eight hours on non-school days, and more than 18 hours per week.” Unfortunately, that does not stop some employers from taking advantage of child labor. The problem rapidly grew last year as many companies struggled to find workers.
In 2022, the Department of Labor investigated 800 reports of child labor violations that involved roughly 4,000 teens. If a company breaks federal child labor laws, it faces a hefty fine that could reach up to $15,000 per person. That is the maximum amount the law allows.
It is also how much Packers Sanitation Services now has to pay. Jessica Looman from the Department of Labor said, “These children should never have been employed in meat packing plants and this can only happen when employers do not take responsibility to prevent child labor violations from occurring in the first place.” Thankfully, the company said they no longer have employees under the age of 18.
With any luck, the prominence of this news story will help deter other companies from breaking child labor laws in the future. But based on the recent caseload, it is not likely. So the most important thing is ensuring parents and their children are aware of the laws and stand up for their rights.