Officials with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry said that a surprise inspection at the Tony Downs Food Company in Madelia found that the company was employing eight children under the age of 18 to drive forklifts, operate meat grinders and flash-freeze food at the plant where more than 450 people are employed. Furthermore, children are often required to work until 1 or 2 a.m. Some employees claim they were hired when they were only 13 years old. The company is reportedly cooperating with the investigation that continues. This action by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry is at least the 12th similar injunction against a meat-packing plant since late 2022.
Meat-packer sanitation company fined $1.5 million for illegal child labor
In February 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD, of Kieler, Wisconsin, paid a $1.5 million fine after the department proved that the company hired more than 100 children to clean meat and poultry producing facilities, including during overnight hours. Chemical burns injured at least three children, and they may have filed workers’ compensation claims. The company hired children in at least three states.
Child labor laws
Generally, children under 14 cannot work in nonagricultural occupations under 14. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, children as young as 12 can work outside school hours on farms that do not have to abide by minimum wage requirements, and children 14 and over can do many farm chores. Children over 16 can do any farm chore. In nonagricultural occupations, some children can start working during specific hours and on particular days at 14. The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor allows youth to take on more jobs when they are 16, but they require them to be 18 to work in hazardous occupations. Many states have more stringent child labor laws.
Children may start working at 12 in a few farm jobs but generally need to be 16 to work in most occupations. Working in hazardous occupations must be 18.