The company accused of working dozens of children in abattoirs during the graveyard shift reaches settlement with the feds

An industrial cleaning company accused by federal investigators of hiring dozens of children to clean abattoirs during the cemetery shift has settled the allegations with the U.S. Department of Labor, according to a federal court filing filed Tuesday morning.

As part of the approval order, Packers Sanitation Services Inc. or PSSI will review and develop existing policies and training materials and retain a third-party consultant to conduct “quarterly child labor compliance training” and monitor company compliance for three years. . The company will also introduce a new child labor provision in its contracts with customers and notify the Labor Department how many employees it has fired for complying with child labor laws.

Allegations of child labor at a slaughterhouse on Grand Island, Nebraska, date back to 2016, according to a previously unreported local police report received by NBC News. An officer was called to the local secondary school because a 14-year-old girl had “scars on her hands,” the report said. The document shows that the allegations are being investigated as “child abuse”.

A spokesperson for the Grand Island Police Department said the injuries were caused by the boy’s work at PSSI. The matter was referred to the local prosecutor and the child’s guardian was investigated but not charged.

Wisconsin-based Packers Sanitation Services Inc. A spokesperson for the company said in a statement about the consent order with the feds: “We are pleased to have reached a resolution in the Department of Labor (DOL) investigation into this matter. We have been very clear from the beginning: PSSI has a zero-tolerance policy against the employment of persons under the age of 18 and the DOL It fully shares the goal of ensuring that .

The statement adds that the company will further strengthen its existing policies to verify the identities of employees, which they say include “mandatory use of the government’s E-verification system for new hires, extensive training, multiple audits and biometrics.”

The decision comes nearly a month after the Department of Labor accused the company of employing at least 31 children on cemetery shifts at slaughterhouses in three states. grinding machine — according to the complaint, it was noted that many children started their shifts at the facilities at 11:00 pm and worked until 5, 6 or 7 am, with some working six or seven days a week. According to this complaint, at least three children suffered chemical burns from working in slaughterhouses.

As of Monday, the Department of Labor has identified 19 more minors that PSSI has employed at two additional facilities since the filing last month, making at least 50 children working for the company at five facilities in three states, according to court documents.

Federal officials argued last month that the company violated “repressive child labor” and the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits minors from doing any hazardous work. The Department of Labor’s Child Labor Regulations define many tasks that are dangerous for minors in slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants.

In court filings, the company did not deny that it had hired children, but described it as “rogue individuals” offering fake IDs with Social Security numbers verified by the federal government’s E-Verify system.

Federal officials said in a complaint last month that preliminary evidence showed the company could employ more children under similar conditions at 400 other facilities nationwide.

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor said the investigation is ongoing.

PSSI has 17,000 employees at 500 locations nationwide. The company is owned by private equity firm Blackstone, which took over in 2018.

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