A prominent third-party cleaning service provider for food processing plants has been ordered by a federal judge to stop using underage workers.
The U.S. Labor Department secured an injunction Nov. 10 against Packers Sanitation Services Inc., after receiving information that PSSI had been using 31 underage workers, some as young as 13, to clean meat processing plants. The youths had been employed in plants belonging to JBS USA in Grand Island, Neb., and Worthington and Marshall, Minn.
The youths suffered caustic chemical burns and other injuries on the job, according to a Justice Department statement. At least one of them worked some shifts from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. during the week, causing him to fall asleep in school or miss it entirely.
The Justice Department also charged that PSSI interfered with its investigation by pressuring the minors not to talk to agents, and by altering or deleting employment records.
A federal judge in Nebraska issued a temporary restraining order and injunction prohibiting PSSI from using underaged employees or attempting to obstruct federal investigations. A spokesperson for PSSI told the Washington Post that “rogue individuals” may have falsified their ages to gain employment, but that “we are confident in our company’s strict compliance policies and will defend ourselves vigorously against these claims.”