Feds fine outside company $650,000 for sending children to clean Perdue Plant in Accomac

May 8, 2024
Fayette Janitorial Services

By Linda Cicoira

A consent judgment announced by the U.S. Department of Labor on Monday includes nearly $650,000 in civil penalties and a court-ordered mandate for a Tennessee sanitation company that illegally hired at least two dozen children to clean dangerous meat processing facilities, including one in Accomac.

A filing said federal investigators believed at least four children had still been working at one Iowa slaughterhouse as of Dec. 12.  Federal law prohibits companies from employing people younger than 18 to work in meat processing plants because of the hazards.

The Labor Department alleged that Fayette Janitorial Service LLC used 15 underage workers at a Perdue Farms plant in Accomac, and at least nine at Seaboard Triumph Foods in Sioux City, Iowa. The work included sanitizing dangerous equipment like head splitters, jaw pullers, and meat bandsaws in hazardous conditions where animals are killed and rendered.

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According to the investigation, a 14-year-old was severely injured while cleaning the drumstick packing line belt at the Accomac plant.

Perdue Farms and Seaboard Triumph Foods say they terminated their contracts with Fayette.

The agreement stipulates that Fayette will hire a third-party consultant to monitor the company’s compliance with child labor laws for at least three years and facilitate training. The company must also establish a hotline so people can report concerns about child labor abuses.

A Fayette spokesperson told The Associated Press in February that the company cooperates with the investigation and has a “zero-tolerance policy for minor labor.”

The Labor Department found a growing list of child labor violations across the country, including a fatal mangling of a 16-year-old at a Mississippi poultry plant, the death of a 16-year-old after an accident at a sawmill in Wisconsin, and last year’s report of more than 100 children illegally employed by Packers Sanitation Services, across 13 meatpacking plants. That company paid more than $1.5 million in civil penalties.

A report stated that statistics show the number of children being employed illegally in the U.S. has increased 88% since 2019.

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