A 16-year-old and a 17-year-old were operating dangerous meat processing equipment, in violation of child labor laws, at a Minnesota factory run by national food manufacturer Monogram Food Solutions LLC, according to the US Department of Labor. .us
The Labor Department fined Monogram $30,276 for employing the two minors at the Chandler factory, which makes meat sandwiches and refrigerated hot dogs.
The federal investigation was launched based on leads obtained during a previous federal investigation into child labor that found more than 100 minors cleaning slaughterhouses for a different company in the Midwest, according to a Labor Department spokesperson. That company said the minors used false identification to obtain employment.
It is legal for 16-18 year olds to work different jobs outside the home, but they are not allowed to do jobs that are considered dangerous by the Department of Labor, such as meat processing, coal mining, and roofing.
Jessica Looman, Labor’s chief assistant wage and hour administrator, said Monogram “should never have allowed two children to operate dangerous equipment. After our initial investigation, Monogram Meat Snacks and its parent company have agreed to take significant steps to prevent future child labor violations.»
The Department of Labor also announced that, as part of Monogram’s consent decree and judgment, it employed a little-used provision known as the «hot goods provision» in March. That step halted the shipment of any products that were made at the factory while the teens were employed. Monogram agreed to hold the shipments at the end of April, according to the agency, and the ban on shipping those goods was lifted after the company paid the fine and the consent order and judgment was executed.
In late February, the department warned that it could stop shipping of goods made with child labor as part of an intensified cross-agency enforcement initiative in response to a 69% increase in child labor violations nationwide since 2018.
«He [Fair Labor Standards Act] prohibits the shipment of goods that have been produced in violation of the law,» a spokesperson for the Department of Labor told NBC News, calling the provision of hot goods «a powerful tool.»
Monogram spokeswoman Liz McKee told NBC News that the two teens found by Labor in its investigation used fake identification to get jobs at the Chandler factory, which has 400 employees.
In a statement, the company said it «does not want and has a zero tolerance policy for the work of ineligible minors and we have fully cooperated with this process. We take our legal obligations and our long-standing commitment to compliance very seriously, and we immediately terminated the two ineligible workers who appear to have used falsified documentation related to their identity or age in the hiring process. We have voluntarily made significant and immediate company-wide changes to our existing policies and procedures to prevent this from happening in the future.»
As part of the agreement, Monogram also agreed to hire an outside consultant to monitor compliance with child labor laws.
Additionally, the company is now required to conduct a national audit of its facilities within 90 days, to ensure no other minors are employed. The company must also establish a toll-free number for employees who need guidance on child labor compliance or who wish to report violations. Company officials must also notify the Department of Labor of any employees who resign or have been laid off after March 29.
Monogram has 3,600 employees and operates 13 facilities in seven states. Private equity firm Pritzker Private Capital acquired a significant stake in Monogram in 2021, according to a Pritzker statement.
Earlier this year, another Minnesota meat processor, Tony Downs Foods Company, was found to have hired eight minors to work night shifts at its Madelia plant, according to a complaint from the state Department of Labor and Industry.
Tony Downs is still negotiating a final resolution with state labor officials, according to the latest court document from June. Lawyers for the state agency said the company has cooperated with the ongoing investigation.