Judge Upholds $1.9M Penalty for Child Labor Abuses

Pecan grove.
Pecan grove.
iStock

SALT LAKE CITY – A federal judge has upheld an assessment by the U.S. Department of Labor of $1,964,450 in civil money penalties against Paragon Contractors Corp. and its owner Brian Jessop.

The ruling by the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges is the latest action in long-standing litigation by the department’s Office of the Solicitor against the employers, prompted by their lengthy history of child labor violations. The judge also held Paragon’s successor in interest, Par 2 Contractors LLC, liable for the penalty amount.

In 2012, investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found Paragon, Jessop, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and others had employed more than 200 children – including more than 100 under the age of 12 – to harvest pecans on a ranch in Utah during school hours, in violation of child labor provisions in the Fair Labor Standard Act. In past litigation, the department has successfully obtained contempt orders and back wages and other relief totaling more than $1 million.

“Working with the Wage Hour Division, the U.S. Department of Labor has sought to hold these employers accountable for their willingness to defy federal child labor laws,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “The department’s investigation found the employers removed minors from school, forced them to perform hard work in pecan orchards, and deprive them of their education. We will address exploitative child labor practices like these with the department’s full enforcement resources.” 

“Those who employ young workers must ensure the nature of their work, and the times at which they are employed, do not interfere with their education or put their safety in jeopardy,” said Acting Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman. “Child labor laws exist to help young workers gain valuable and safe workplace experience. Our investigators work tirelessly to root out abuses by unscrupulous employers.”

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