Monday, February 27, 2023

The 2nd nominee for the “Worst Employer of 2023” is … the child labor abuser

According to the Department of Labor, Packers Sanitation Services, the country's largest food safety sanitation services, employed at least 102 children — ranging in age from 13 to 17 — in hazardous occupations in meat processing facilities across eight states.

The hazardous conditions to which Packer required the children to be exposed included working with hazardous chemicals and cleaning meat processing equipment including back saws, brisket saws and head splitters. At least three of the children suffered injuries while illegally working for Packer.

As a result, Packer has agreed to pay more than $1.5M in civil penalties.

Per Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Michael Lazzeri, "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." NBC News reports that when Packer learned of the investigation, employees tried to hide evidence of the child labor violations by deleting digital messages.

Adds Principal Deputy Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division Jessica Looman, "The child labor violations in this case were systemic … and clearly indicate a corporate-wide failure by Packers Sanitation Services at all levels. These children should never have been employed in meat packing plants and this can only happen when employers do not take responsibility to prevent child labor violations from occurring in the first place."

Shannon Rebolledo, the DOL employee who led this investigation, told NBC News that she had "never seen child labor violations to this extent," and further that she "never had an employer or their representative impede my investigation like this just so brazenly."

This is precisely why Packer deserves its nomination for the Worst Employer of 2023.