Tennessee meat processor allows children to work on dangerous equipment

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Yet another meatpacking and food processing business has been caught using children in dangerous labor roles. This time, the company involved had to pay a six-figure fine and was briefly prohibited from shipping beef jerky, cheese, and sausage from the involved location.

Monogram Meats Snacks paid $140,164 in civil money penalties after the U.S. Department of Labor found the company employed at least 11 children — nine of whom operated hazardous machinery — at its meatpacking and food processing facility in Chandler, MN.

Last week, the national food manufacturer agreed to pay the civil money penalties as part of an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division, which began in March 2023. 

During the investigation, the division determined that Monogram employed five 17-year-olds, four 16-year-olds, and two 15-year-olds in violation of federal child labor laws.

The investigation of the company is part of the division’s overall effort to combat child labor announced earlier this year. 

At the end of September, Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods were also under investigation for child labor violations. Other big name companies with direct or indirect child labor violations this year include JBS Foods, Maple Leaf Farms, Cargill Inc., the Greater Omaha Packing Co., and others.

Since 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor has seen a 69 percent increase in children employed illegally by companies.

“As we made clear earlier this year, the Department of Labor and the Biden-Harris administration are committed to combating the troubling increase in child labor violations,” said Principal Deputy Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman. “No employer should ever jeopardize the safety of children by employing them to operate dangerous equipment. Employers are legally responsible for recognizing potential child labor violations and taking all appropriate actions to verify that they are not employing children illegally.”

In addition to the division’s investigation resulting in the employer being prohibited from shipping snack foods such as beef jerky, cheese and sausage under the “hot goods” provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota entered a consent judgment and order on July 6, 2023, that required the company not to violate child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and to take specific steps to ensure compliance, including the hiring of a third-party consultant to conduct nationwide audits, establish a toll-free number for employees to report potential child labor compliance issues anonymously, and identify and mark hazardous equipment. 

“This case’s resolution makes clear the Department of Labor will not tolerate companies seeking to profit by illegally employing children,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “Child labor abuses are a stain on our nation, and we will continue to utilize every tool and legal strategy at our disposal to keep young people safe.”

“The employment of children in hazardous occupations cannot be allowed here in the U.S. or in any other nation,” Nanda added. “In this and similar cases, we have put companies that employ children to produce goods illegally on notice that we will stop them from shipping and selling goods produced under the ‘hot goods’ provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act.” 

While Monogram Meat Snacks is a subsidiary of Monogram Food Solutions LLC in Memphis, Monogram Management Services Inc. is the named employer of all Monogram employees.

 In addition to its Chandler location, Monogram operates and employs workers in meat-packing establishments in Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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