A sanitation company tasked with cleaning meatpacking plants for Cargill, JBS, Tyson Foods and five other companies has paid $1.5 million in penalties for employing at least 102 children in hazardous jobs, the Labor Department says. 

The department's Wage and Hour Division fined Packers Sanitation Services Inc. $15,138 for each minor-aged employee that was "employed in violation of the law." The company paid the penalties on Thursday, the department announced Friday.

The agency said children between the ages of 13 and 17 were working with "hazardous" chemicals and equipment like back saws, brisket saws and head splitters. At least three minors suffered injuries during their employment.

“The child labor violations in this case were systemic and reached across eight states, and clearly indicate a corporate-wide failure by Packers Sanitation Services at all levels,” said Jessica Looman, principal deputy administrator for the Wage and Hour Division. 

Twenty-seven of these minors worked in a JBS Foods plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, while 26 worked in a Cargill plant in Dodge City, Kansas. The investigators found 22 minors working in a JBS plant in Worthington, Minnesota.

Six minors were also found working in a Tyson Foods plant in Green Forest Arkansas, while five worked in a Greater Omaha Packing Co. plant in Omaha. A JBS Foods plant in Greeley, Colorado, and a George's Inc. plant in Green Forest, Arkansas, each were found to contain four minors employed by Packers Sanitation.

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Michael Lazzeri, the Wage and Hour Division's regional administrator, said adult employees of Packers Sanitation Services' systems tried to "derail" the efforts of labor department staff to investigate the company's practices.

He said Packers Sanitation's systems "flagged some young workers as minors," but the company chose not to act on the information.

The Wage and Hour Division, which began an investigation in August, filed a complaint in a U.S. District Court in Nebraska on Nov. 9. The company, in December, agreed to a consent order and judgement from the court requiring it to comply with Federal Labor Standards Act child labor provisions in all of its operations and hire an outside compliance specialist to help it do so.

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