Labor Department sues fundamentalist group over child labor

Wage and Hour Division sued the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and several employers within the sect for continuing to violate child-labor laws after a 2007 court order demanded they cease the employment of minor children for pecan harvesting. The Wage and Hour Division had been investigating the FLDS church for several years, and this lawsuit is on behalf of approximately 175 children under the age of 13 that worked during the 2012-2013 pecan harvest and received no compensation for their efforts. (An estimated 1,400 children and adults in south Utah and north Arizona were not compensated for their work during that year’s harvest.) “For years, these employers have trampled on the rights of workers, both children and adults, and violated our child labor laws, forcing minors to work for them,” said Dr. David Weil, Wage and Hour Division Administrator. “Such disregard for the rights of all workers, especially children, will not be tolerated.” By suing, the Department has taken action to collect $1.9 million from FLDS employers Lyle Jeffs, Dale Barlow, Brian Jessop, and Paragon Contractors Corp. in civil penalties for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (including child labor, overtime and minimum wage laws). The Department has also requested back wages be paid to those children and adults that were not compensated in 2012-2013, and has filed contempt-of-court charges against Paragon and Jessop, who were charged with similar violations in 2007. Neither the FLDS church nor Jeffs contested the penalties in 2007, so the Department was able to assess the current financial penalties for repeat violations.]]>

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