Minors Allegedly Found Working at Mar-Jac Poultry Plant After Teen’s Death

Minors Allegedly Found Working at Mar-Jac Poultry Plant After Teen's Death

(USNewsBreak.com) – A 16-year-old boy died at a Mar-Jac Poultry processing plant in July 2023, while cleaning one of its machines. The boy’s mother sued the company, which denies any wrongdoing. Now, however, Mar-Jac has come under scrutiny again after investigators allegedly found several minor children working at one of its plants.

Investigators with the Department of Labor (DOL) obtained a civil search warrant and inspected the poultry plant in Walker County, Alabama. They found six minors, as young as 16 years old, working “on the kill floor” on May 1. Now, the DOL is asking a judge to intervene.

On May 7, DOL attorneys filed a civil action against Mar-Jac. They intend to stop the sale and production of all goods produced via child labor through the end of the month by calling for the enactment of the “hot goods” provision, which would bar the company from profiting from using child labor.

Mar-Jac contended it had done nothing wrong. Attorneys for the company claimed the minors presented false documents claiming they were 18 or older. Additionally, the company argued that enacting a “hot goods” injunction would result in the temporary layoff of 1,000 workers and “require the destruction of millions of chickens […] the destruction of a million pounds of meat.” They claimed the court order would also disrupt the delivery of birds and feed and create an “economic disaster” for local farmers.

While the law entirely prohibits minors from working in processing plants — it allows them to work in certain circumstances outside the industry — the rise in child labor in processing plants has become an issue over the years. Debbie Berkowitz, a worker safety expert, told reporters the DOL began imposing strict penalties on offenders because of such hiring practices.

The boy’s death wasn’t the first time Mar-Jac ran afoul of the law. In 2023, the DOL fined the company for 16-year-old Duvan Perez’s death. In 2021, auditors called company safety practices into question when another employee died after a machine pinned the worker beneath it.

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