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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

WHD News Release: [10/26/2011]
Contact Name: Scott Allen or Rhonda Burke
Phone Number: (312) 353-6976 or x4807
Release Number: 11-1559-CHI

Judge upholds civil money penalties assessed by US Labor Department to Progressive Protein in Omaha, Neb., for child labor violations

17-year-old employee killed at meat rendering plant in 2009

OMAHA, Neb. — U.S. Department of Labor Chief Administrative Law Judge Stephen L. Purcell has upheld civil money penalties of $100,000 assessed by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division against Progressive Protein LLC of Omaha, Neb., after a 17-year-old worker was killed in May 2009 at the company's Omaha meat rendering plant. The minor was operating a forklift and working at the plant in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act's child labor provisions.

This was the first hearing conducted in the nation regarding the Wage and Hour Division's Child Labor Enhanced Penalty Program, as established under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which allows the Labor Department to assess greater penalties in cases involving violations of child labor provisions that cause the death or serious injury of a minor.

"We are gratified that the department's use of the tools established under the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act was upheld," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The Department of Labor is committed to enforcing America's child labor laws to protect this vulnerable group from workplace harm, and this decision will help us further that mission."

The Labor Department issued penalties to Progressive Protein in February 2010 following its investigation into the minor's death, which occurred when the forklift he was operating overturned. Progressive Protein did not verify the age of the worker prior to employing him even though the investigation determined the company was aware that he was a high school student. The company contested the department's findings and requested a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Progressive Protein also was cited in August 2009 by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for four violations carrying proposed penalties of $8,500, following an inspection that was conducted as a result of the fatality. The violations included insufficient training for and inadequate supervision of powered industrial truck operators-in-training, the lack of seat belt use, deficient energy control procedures and improper record keeping.

The FLSA establishes a minimum age of 18 for those nonagricultural occupations that the secretary of labor finds and declares to be particularly hazardous for 16- and 17-year-old workers, or detrimental to their health or well-being. The company was cited for violations of Hazardous Occupations Order No. 7, allowing a minor to operate a power-driven hoisting apparatus, as well as Hazardous Occupations Order No. 10, permitting a minor to work in or about a meat rendering facility.

To learn more about the FLSA's requirements, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free hotline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.