Minnesota meat processing plant accused of employing minors to pay $300K in penalties

Minnesota Meat Processor to Pay $300,000 in Penalties for Child Labor Violations

A meat processing company in Minnesota is set to pay $300,000 in penalties for breaching child labor laws. The Tony Downs Food Company, headquartered in Mankato, was found to have employed children as young as 13 in hazardous conditions, including operating meat grinders during overnight shifts and working longer hours than allowed by law.

The investigation revealed that Tony Downs Food Company hired at least eight children between the ages of 14 and 17 at its Madelia plant. Furthermore, some other employees were hired before turning 18. These young workers were tasked with operating meat grinders, ovens, forklifts, and even working in areas where meat products are flash-frozen using carbon monoxide and ammonia. Some of them sustained injuries during their employment.

As part of a consent order with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, the company has agreed to pay the penalties and commit to adhering to child labor laws. They will also employ a compliance specialist to oversee their adherence to these regulations.

Commenting on the case, Commissioner Nicole Blissenbach emphasized the importance of training employees to recognize potential child labor violations, urging all employers to ensure compliance with state and federal laws.

Tony Downs Food Company, however, disputes the alleged violations of law, as stated in the agreement.

The investigation into Tony Downs Food Company was initiated following a complaint received by the Minnesota labor department regarding working conditions at the Madelia plant. Investigators conducted an overnight inspection, interviewed workers, and documented the conditions, while also contacting local school districts for information. The company provided employee records up to February.

The labor department’s findings indicated that the company was aware of the situation. Additionally, it was discovered that some minors were working under assumed names and were not native English speakers.

Minnesota law prohibits employers from hiring minors for work in hazardous conditions and sets limits on the hours young employees can work, including restrictions on working past 9 p.m. and exceeding eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.

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