Labor probe: Cleaning contractor allegedly hired minors to work at Turkey Valley

MARSHALL — A company that provides cleaning services to meat plants — including the Turkey Valley Farms plant in Marshall — is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor for allegedly hiring minors.

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

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

The complaint alleges the minors were working overnight shifts and cleaning dangerous machinery, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards act. An investigation found that some of the children received injuries including chemical burns, the complaint alleges.

In a statement Friday, Turkey Valley Farms said it was watching the 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 any individuals working in our facilities and to adhere to these principles that foster a safe work environment as well as to all applicable federal and state labor laws. We are closely monitoring the Department of Labor’s Actions with regard to Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. and will take all appropriate action, based on the outcome of the investigation.”

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

In the brief, two minors said they worked night shifts at Turkey Valley Farms, cleaning equipment like meat grinders and conveyor belts with pressure hoses. Minors who worked overnight at the Worthington JBS plant said they cleaned equipment including conveyor belts and machines like band saws and bone grinders.

The brief alleged other minors said they received chemical burns while cleaning the JBS facility at Grand Island.

The Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits minors under the age of 14 from working, and prohibits 14- and 15-year-old employees from working late at night. Additionally, they cannot work for more than three hours on a school day. The law also prohibits minors from operating motor vehicles and forklifts, and using other hazardous equipment.

The complaint said the Department of Labor is asking for a court order to permanently restrain PSSI from employing minors at each of its workplaces throughout the U.S.

According to the company’s website, PSSI employs 17,000 workers across more than 700 locations in the U.S.


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