Dept. of Labor alleges minors worked overnight shifts at Minnesota meatpacking plants
The U.S. Department of Labor claims a Wisconsin-based company employed minors to work at multiple meatpacking plants, including juveniles at two locations in Minnesota.
According to federal court records filed in Nebraska, Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. (PSSI), employed minors at a meatpacking facility owned by JBS USA in Grand Island, Nebraska, and a location in Worthington, Minn. PSSI provides cleaning services in multiple states, including Minnesota and Nebraska, court records state.
In an email, a PSSI spokesperson sent KSTP a statement saying, in part, “PSSI has an absolute company-wide prohibition against the employment of anyone under the age of 18 and zero tolerance for any violation of that policy — period.”
“Investigation revealed that PSSI employed at least one minor under the age of 16 to work overnight shifts” at the Worthington facility, court records state. The complaint also says PSSI employed minors at a Marshall, Minn., facility operated by Turkey Valley Farms.
Michael Koenig, JBS Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in an email, “we take seriously the allegations against PSSI, which, if true, represent a clear violation of our ethical policies.”
U.S. labor laws do allow juveniles to work legally but prohibit minors from working in “hazardous” settings, which include slaughterhouses.
The complaint alleges PSSI supervisors in Worthington and Grand Island, Neb., were aware that underage minors were hired to clean hazardous equipment overnight.
One court filing says investigators found text messages that allegedly show employees “discussing the use of false identity documents.”
Reached by email, a spokesperson for Turkey Valley Farms sent KSTP a statement that read, in part, “Turkey Valley Farms takes these allegations very seriously, and we are reviewing the matter internally.”
Read the full statement from PSSI:
“PSSI has an absolute company-wide prohibition against the employment of anyone under the age of 18 and zero tolerance for any violation of that policy — period.
PSSI has industry-leading, best-in-class procedures to confirm the identities of its employees — including mandatory use of the Government’s E-verify system for new hires, as well as extensive training, document verification, biometrics, and multiple layers of audits. While rogue individuals could of course seek to engage in fraud or identity theft, we are confident in our company’s strict compliance policies and will defend ourselves vigorously against these claims.
We are also surprised the DOL has taken this action given PSSI’s Corporate office has been cooperating with their inquiry, producing extensive documents and responses. PSSI also worked with the DOL recently and successfully completed multiple audits with the agency that found no issues. PSSI will continue to cooperate with the DOL and will continue to enforce its absolute prohibition against employing anyone under the age of 18.”Packers Sanitation Services, Inc.
Read the full statement from JBS USA:
We take seriously the allegations against PSSI, which, if true, represent a clear violation of our ethical policies. When this was brought to our attention, we immediately engaged an independent, third-party to audit sanitation providers at all of our facilities. In addition, we have put in place interim measures to confirm the status of all sanitation personnel at our facilities. Finally, we are assessing all options in connection with the provision of sanitation services for our Grand Island, Neb., and Worthington, Minn., facilities.
JBS has zero tolerance for child labor, discrimination or unsafe working conditions for anyone working in our facilities. We expect and contractually require our vendors to adhere to the highest ethical principles as outlined in our Business Associate Code of Conduct.Michael Koenig, JBS Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer
Read the full statement from Turkey Valley Farms:
Turkey Valley Farms takes these allegations very seriously, and we are reviewing the matter internally. We expect all contractors to share our commitment to the health and safety of any individuals working our facilities and to adhere to these principles that foster a safe work environment as well as to all applicable federal and state labor laws. We are closely monitoring the Department of Labor’s actions with regard to Packers Sanitation Services Inc. and will take all appropriate action, based on the outcome of the investigation.Turkey Valley Farms