Labor investigation: Cleaning contractor allegedly hired miners to work in Turkey Valley | News, Sports, Jobs


MARSHALL – A company that provides cleaning services to meat factories – including the Turkey Valley Farms plant in Marshall – is being investigated by the US Department of Labor for allegedly hiring underage workers.

The Department of Labor is asking a federal court to issue an injunction against Packers Sanitation Services, Inc., to restrain the company from illegally employing minors.

A lawsuit filed this week in the U.S. District Court for Nebraska in Lincoln alleges that PSSI employed at least 31 children, ages 13 to 17, at facilities including a JBS meat plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, the plant JBS in Worthington, and Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall.

The complaint alleges that the miners were working nights and cleaning dangerous machinery, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. An investigation revealed that some of the children had suffered injuries, including chemical burns, according to the complaint.

In a statement Friday, Turkey Valley Farms said it was monitoring actions against PSSI.

“Turkey Valley Farms takes these allegations very seriously and we are reviewing the matter internally,” the statement said. “We expect all contractors to share our commitment to the health and safety of everyone working in our facilities and to adhere to these principles which promote a safe work environment as well as all laws applicable federal and state labor laws. We are closely monitoring the actions of the Department of Labor regarding Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. and will take any appropriate action, based on the results of the investigation.

The complaint filed against PSSI included a brief on an investigation that allegedly found the company employed at least 31 miners at the three factories. The brief also alleged that PSSI deleted or manipulated employee files and used intimidation to prevent minors from cooperating with the investigation.

In the brief, two miners said they worked night shifts at Turkey Valley Farms, cleaning equipment such as meat grinders and conveyor belts with pressurized hoses. Miners who worked overnight at the Worthington JBS plant said they cleaned equipment including conveyor belts and machinery such as band saws and bone crushers.

The brief alleged that other miners said they suffered chemical burns while cleaning JBS facilities on Grand Island.

The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits minors under the age of 14 from working and prohibits employees aged 14 and 15 from working late at night. Moreover, they cannot work more than three hours per school day. The law also prohibits minors from operating motor vehicles and forklifts and using other dangerous equipment.

The complaint says the Department of Labor is seeking a court order to permanently bar PSSI from employing minors at each of its workplaces across the United States.

According to the company’s website, PSSI employs 17,000 people at more than 700 locations in the United States.

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