PSSI investigated for child labor violations in Nebraska

The U.S. Department of Labor filed for a temporary restraining order and injunction in Nebraska against Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD (PSSI) following allegations of “oppressive child labor” violations.

Doughman Headshot3 Headshot
Legal office of lawyers and attorneys legal bronze model statue of Themis goddess of justice.
Legal office of lawyers and attorneys legal bronze model statue of Themis goddess of justice.

The U.S. Department of Labor filed for a temporary restraining order and injunction in Nebraska against Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD (PSSI) following allegations of “oppressive child labor” violations.

According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for Nebraska in Lincoln, 31 children – ages 13 to 17 years of age – employed by PSSI worked in hazardous occupations, including cleaning dangerous powered equipment during overnight shifts. In addition, several minors – including a 13-year-old – suffered from caustic chemical burns and other injuries.

The agency also claims that PSSI interfered with the investigation through the intimidation of minor workers and by deleting and manipulating employment files.

“The Department of Labor will use every available legal resource to protect workers – regardless of their age – and hold to account those employers who mistakenly believe they can violate the Fair Labor Standards Act, obstruct federal investigations, and retaliate against workers who assert their rights,” said regional solicitor of labor Christine Heri in Chicago.

Investigation into potential child labor violations at PSSI began April 24 after the agency received a tip.

The U.S. Department of Labor has strict guidance for the employment of minors. Children under the age of 14 are prohibited from working, while those aged 14 and 15 cannot work later than 9 p.m. during the summer months and 7 p.m. for the rest of the year. Employed minors also cannot operate motor vehicles, forklifts or other hazardous equipment, according to employment laws.

Statement from PSSI

A PSSI spokesperson issued the following statement concerning the statement: “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.”

PSSI serves as a food safety sanitation contractor at JBS USA plants in Grand Island, Nebraska and Worthington, Minnesota, and at Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, Minnesota.

Turkey Valley Farm responds

In an e-mail response to WATTPoultry.com, a spokesperson for Turkey Valley Farms said: "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 in 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."

JBS responds

Michael Koenig, JBS chief ethics & compliance officer, said: “We take seriously the allegations against PSSI, which, if true, represent a clear violation of our ethical policies. We are immediately launching an independent, third-party audit at all of our facilities to thoroughly evaluate this situation. JBS has zero tolerance for child labor, discrimination or unsafe working conditions for anyone working in our facilities. We expect and contractually require our partners to adhere to the highest ethical principles as outlined in our Business Associate Code of Conduct.”

According to the WATTPoultry.com Top Companies Database, JBS is the world’s largest protein supplier and the second largest food company. It also ranks first globally as a poultry producer, having slaughtered 4.4 billion broilers during the past year.

Turkey Valley Farms did not respond to a WATTPoultry.com request for comment.

Page 1 of 1572
Next Page