Another contract cleaning service for the food sector, especially the meat industry, has been caught with child labor violations. The frequency of child labor in the industry surfaced last year when 13 meat plants in eight states contracting with Packers Sanitation Services paid fines totaling $1.5 million for putting children in critical and often dangerous food safety jobs.

The latest violation has the Department of Labor asking a federal court for a nationwide temporary restraining order and injunction against Fayette Janitorial Service LLC – operating as Fayette Industrial – to stop the Tennessee-based company from illegally employing children. At the same time, the department continues its investigations of the company’s labor practices.

Filed by the department’s Office of the Solicitor in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, the request for a restraining order is prompted by investigations by the department’s Wage and Hour Division. Investigators discovered Fayette employed children to clean and sanitize spaces and equipment during overnight shifts to fulfill sanitation contracts at a Perdue Farms plant in Accomac, VA, and at Seaboard Triumph Foods LLC in Sioux City, IA,

The Fair Labor Standards Act bans children younger than 18 from working in dangerous occupations, including most jobs in meat and poultry slaughtering, processing, rendering, and packing establishments.

In its filing, the department alleges Fayette employed 15 children, hired as young as 13 years old, in Virginia and at least nine children in Iowa on its overnight sanitation shifts. Minors were used to clean dangerous kill floor equipment such as head splitters, jaw pullers, meat bandsaws, and neck clippers. At least one 14-year-old at the Virginia facility suffered severe injuries while employed by Fayette.

“The employment of children in hazardous occupations is an egregious violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act that should never occur,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “The Department of Labor continues to use every available legal resource to protect workers and end child labor violations. We are working diligently with other federal agencies to combat child labor exploitation nationwide.”

“Federal laws were established decades ago to prevent employers from profiting from the employment of children in dangerous jobs, yet we continue to find employers exploiting children.” said Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman. “As we’ve unfortunately seen in this case, employers’ violations of federal child labor laws have real consequences on children’s lives. Our actions to stop these violations will help ensure that more children are not hurt in the future.” 

Fayette Janitorial Service LLC of Somerville, TN, provides contract sanitation and cleaning services for meat and poultry processing facilities, including Perdue Farms and Seaboard Triumph Foods, in 30 states and employs more than 600 workers. 

The Department of Labor’s investigations into Fayette are ongoing. In February 2023, the department announced the creation of an Interagency Task Force to Combat Child Labor Exploitation to align better federal efforts to protect children from exploitative situations in the workplace.

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