Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Department of Labor files subpoena enforcement actions against Paragon Contractors and three individuals
Defendants withheld information and did not appear as required by subpoenas
HURRICANE, Utah -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed subpoena enforcement actions against Paragon Contractors Corp., Brian Jessop, Dale Barlow and Keith Dutson for improperly withholding or refusing to provide information in an ongoing child labor investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division. The investigation stems from the alleged involvement of hundreds of children in pecan harvesting operations in the Hurricane area in December 2012.
“The department takes child labor violations very seriously. Vulnerable agricultural workers, particularly minors, too often are exploited for a wide variety of reasons,” said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. “It is for this reason that the department is pursuing all avenues available to obtain the names, ages and contact information of the individuals who were exposed to child labor and minimum wage violations.”
Although some subpoenaed information has been produced, the Wage and Hour Division has reason to believe that Paragon, Jessop and Barlow have either improperly withheld or refused to provide information critical to its investigation. Additionally, Dutson has refused to appear for subpoenaed testimony.
The subpoena enforcement actions were filed at the U.S. District Court, District of Utah. As a result of its investigation, the department has already reached an agreement with Southern Utah Pecan Ranch Ltd., a Nevada limited liability company, to ensure that its labor contractors are compliant with federal labor laws.
The agreement further requires Southern Utah Pecan Ranch to pay up to the full value of the pecans harvested on its property in late 2012 to satisfy any civil money penalties, back wages and liquidated damages assessed by the department as a result of its ongoing child labor investigation.
In addition, the grower is required to include language in future contracts that requires contractors to comply with federal and state laws by posting informational posters on the ranch regarding labor laws and to hire a third party to conduct annual audits evaluating its compliance with all the regulations for the next three years. For more information, see the division’s Jan. 4 press release at http://www.dol.gov/whd/media/press/whdpressVB3.asp?pressdoc=Southwest/20130104.xml.
While the alleged violations during the recent harvest at Southern Utah Pecan Ranch may not violate Utah labor law, which exempts agricultural work from age limitations, federal labor laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, may still apply. When both state and federal youth employment laws apply, the law setting the most protective standard must be observed.
The division previously cited and penalized Paragon Contractors Corp. of Hildale, as well as Brian Jessop and James Jessop, individually, for multiple child labor violations. The department obtained a consent judgment and permanent injunction in federal court in 2007 to combat future violations.
The FLSA sets standards for minimum wage, overtime compensation and child labor restrictions. The act’s “hot goods” provision prohibits employers from shipping any goods produced in violation of the act’s minimum wage, overtime or child labor requirements. In agricultural employment, the law allows youths ages 14 and 15 to work outside of school hours in jobs not declared hazardous by the secretary of labor. Youths 12 and 13 years of age may work outside of school hours in nonhazardous jobs on farms that also employ their parent(s), or with written parental consent. Youths under 12 years of age may work outside of school hours in nonhazardous jobs with parental consent, but only on farms small enough that none of the employees are subject to the minimum wage requirements of the FLSA. Youths 16 and above may work in any farm job at any time.
For more information on state child labor laws, including Utah, see http://www.youthrules.gov/law-library/state-laws/index.htm.
For more information about the FLSA or other federal labor laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/whd. Additional information on child labor rules can be found at http://www.youthrules.dol.gov.
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7828 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America’s employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.