The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) is asking a judge to stop the Mar-Jac Poultry plant in Jasper from shipping goods they say were processed illegally. The USDOL filed a civil complaint seeking injunctive relief.

According to court documents, the USDOL raided the plant on May 1, using 20 investigators. Upon questioning workers, they discovered two 16-year-olds and two 17-year-olds they said were doing jobs that violated child labor laws.

“WHD [Wage and Hour Division] found children younger than eighteen-years-old working on the killing floor hanging live chickens on hooks for slaughter and cutting meat from the carcasses, which is a prohibited hazardous occupation for minors,” the filing states.

The USDOL website states the following:

Kids under 18 cannot operate power-driven meat processing machines, such as meat slicers, saws and meat choppers, wherever used (including restaurants and delicatessens).

Kids under 18 cannot do most jobs in meat and poultry slaughtering, processing, rendering or packing establishments.

The USDOL wants the plant to stop shipment for 30 days so that what they consider to be “hot goods” are not sold into interstate commerce.

In a court filing, the plant owners denied any wrongdoing and said the USDOL has no understanding of how poultry processing works. The company representative said the plant offered to stop shipments of goods that were packaged during the May 1 shift. The brief also states that the plant managers E-verified the ages of the employees and had documents showing they were over 17 and authorized to work in the United States.

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