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Feds: JBS Meat Facilities’ Graveyard Shift Workers Were Children Hired Illegally

According to federal officials, children are employed unlawfully to perform hazardous tasks at JBS meat processing facilities in Minnesota and Nebraska, including nighttime shifts and positions that burned a 13-year-old with caustic chemicals.

In order to prevent Packers Sanitation Services, or PSSI, the company that cleans up the plants for the largest meat processing company in the world, from hiring numerous individuals who are under the age of 18, the U.S. Department of Labor this week asked a federal court to issue a nationwide restraining order against it. The temporary motion was approved on Thursday by a federal district judge in Lincoln, Nebraska, according to an email from a department representative to CBS MoneyWatch.

According to a Labor Department inquiry that was started in August, PSSI employed at least 31 kids between the ages of 13 and 17 to carry out sanitation contracts at JBS facilities in Marshall, Minnesota, Turkey Valley Farms in Grand Island, Nebraska, and Worthington, Minnesota.

In addition to washing floors where animals are butchered, it is claimed that children also worked nightly shifts cleaning hazardous powered equipment using corrosive cleansers. According to the organization, several youngsters were hurt, including a 13-year-old who sustained burns from caustic chemicals and other wounds.

According to the agency’s court petition, the preliminary data “indicates PSSI may employ underage minors under comparable conditions at its other 400 businesses around the country.” According to the DOL, PSSI is also suspected of manipulating and deleting employment files as well as attempting to intimidate young employees in order to prevent them from collaborating with investigators.

PSSI, a cleaning, and sanitation company with headquarters in Kieler, Wisconsin, employs 17,000 contract workers at 700 food processing facilities. “PSSI has an absolute company-wide restriction against the employment of anyone under the age of 18 and zero tolerance for any infraction of that policy,” the business responded, dismissing the claims.

The company informed CBS MoneyWatch in a statement that PSSI also employs a range of methods, including the obligatory use of the government’s E-verify system, to authenticate the names of new recruits. We are confident in our company’s strict compliance rules and will vigorously defend ourselves against any claims, the company said. “While rogue individuals could of course attempt to engage in fraud or identity theft,” the company stated.

According to PSSI, the business is working with the DOL while it conducts its inquiry. JBS stated that it was seriously considering the accusations. According to Michael Koenig, chief ethics and compliance officer at JBS USA, a division of Brazilian meat goliath JBS, if genuine, they would contravene the business’ ethical standards. JBS USA, the second-largest producer of pork and poultry in the US and the largest producer of beef, employs over 66,000 employees across 55 locations throughout the US.

“To fully assess this situation, we are starting an impartial, third-party assessment at each of our locations right away. JBS has zero tolerance for anyone working in our facilities who are subjected to child labor, discrimination, or hazardous working conditions. We demand under our business associate code of conduct that all of our partners uphold the highest ethical standards, and we contractually oblige them to do so “In a statement provided to CBS MoneyWatch, Koenig stated.

In response to a request for comment, Turkey Valley Farms remained silent. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, children must be at least 13 years old to work, and employees must be 14 or older to work after 9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day and after 7 p.m. the rest of the year. Along with these restrictions, the legislation forbids minors from operating dangerous machinery during school hours.

Federal rules were set in place decades ago to stop businesses from making money by endangering children, according to a statement from Michael Lazzeri, a regional Labor Department official in Chicago. “Packers Sanitation Services Inc.’s flagrant disdain for the law and for the well-being of young workers is demonstrated through taking advantage of youngsters, exposing them to job dangers, and interfering with a federal investigation.”

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