Company fined for employing minors in hazardous jobs at Nebraska meat facilities

(Keith Srakocic | AP)
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 12:35 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The U.S. Department of Labor has fined one of the country’s largest food safety sanitation services providers more than $1.5 million for employing minors in hazardous occupations, including more than 30 in Nebraska.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Friday they fined Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD (PSSI), based in Kieler, Wis. for employing 102 children between 13 and 17 years old for hazardous jobs at 13 meat processing facilities in eight states.

Allegedly the children were using hazardous chemicals, working overnight shifts and cleaning razor-sharp meat processing equipment including back saws, brisket saws and head splitters.

The Fair Labor Standards Act bans minors from operating - or cleaning - power-driven meat processing machines.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, at least three minors suffered injuries while working for PSSI.

An investigation began in August 2022 and a complaint was filed by the Solicitor’s Office in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska on Nov. 9, 2022, alleging PSSI employed at least 31 minors to clean potentially dangerous powered equipment during overnight shifts at JBS USA plants in two states.

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

The U.S. Department of Labor claims at least 102 children were hired by PSSI to clean at...
The U.S. Department of Labor claims at least 102 children were hired by PSSI to clean at potentially hazardous sites.(U.S. Department of Labor)

“The child labor violations in this case were systemic and reached across eight states, and clearly indicate a corporate-wide failure by Packers Sanitation Services at all levels,” said Principal Deputy Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman. “These children should never have been employed in meatpacking plants and this can only happen when employers do not take responsibility to prevent child labor violations from occurring in the first place.”

PSSI was fined $15,138 for each minor employed at a hazardous job, which is the maximum allowed by federal law.

The U.S. Department of Labor also alleges PSSI was not fully cooperative with the investigation.

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

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