TOPEKA – Federal authorities have fined a cleaning company nearly $400,000 for illegally hiring minors and making them work in dangerous conditions at a Dodge City meatpacking plant.
The fine was linked to a U.S. Department of Labor investigation involving at least 102 children, ages 13 to 17, at meatpacking plants owned by multiple companies in eight states.
The investigation found 26 children working at the Cargill meatpacking plant in Dodge City. Packers Sanitation Services Inc., which provides cleaning services at the facility, was fined $393,588 for the Dodge City violation.
One of the largest food safety sanitation companies in the nation, PSSI was awarded penalties totaling $1,544,076.
The Department of Labor investigation found that the children worked with dangerous chemicals and equipment such as backsaws, chest saws and butt splitters. Others worked night shifts and at least three minors were injured as a result of working for the company.
“The child labor violations in this case were systemic and affected eight states, clearly pointing to a company-wide failure by Packers’ health services at every level,” said Jessica Looman, principal deputy administrator of the payroll division and Department of Labor Hours, in a press release. “These children should never have been employed in meatpacking plants, and that can only happen when employers fail to take responsibility to prevent child labor violations from happening.”
The investigation into the sanitation company began in August 2022. In November, a complaint was filed in Nebraska based on evidence that the company had employed at least 31 children to clean dangerous electrical equipment during shifts nocturnal.
Violations were found at 13 plants in Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas.