Alabama auto parts maker employs teens: Feds

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A federal investigation found that an Alabama manufacturer employed teenagers, according to the Department of Labor.

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An auto parts maker used child labor to produce parts supplied to Hyundai and Kia, federal investigators say.

The investigation determined that teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 worked at a facility in Alexander City, Alabama operated by SL Alabama LLC, which supplies headlights and mirrors for cars, according to an Oct. 11 news release. of the US Department of Labor.

The teens were hired by JK USA Staffing, a temp agency, but worked for SL Alabama, the Alabama Department of Labor said in an Oct. 11 news release. Neither SL Alabama nor JK USA Staffing had required child labor certificates, according to the release.

Some minors employed at the facility used “plastic gluing machines” in an illegal occupation, and other teenagers worked without proper record keeping, the investigation found, according to the state statement.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in coordination with the Alabama Department of Labor’s Child Labor Enforcement Office and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, a US Labor spokesperson told McClatchy News.

A Hyundai spokesperson told McClatchy News that the company appreciates the court’s decision and is encouraged that SL Alabama is taking steps “to ensure its labor practices comply with local, state and local laws. federal”.

“Hyundai will continue to closely review the work operations of its suppliers to ensure full compliance with all local, state and federal laws,” the spokesperson said.

SL Alabama, JK USA Staffing and Kia did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment.

“Our investigation revealed that SL Alabama engaged in oppressive child labor by employing young workers under the age of 14 and employing minors under the age of 16 in a manufacturing occupation,” said the district manager of the wage and hour division, Kenneth Stripling, in the release. “Employers are responsible for knowing who works at their facilities, ensuring those individuals are of legal working age, and that their employment complies with all federal, state and local labor laws.”

Alabama and federal labor officials are suing.

A September 29 consent judgment from the U.S. District Court for the Intermediate District of Alabama prohibited SL Alabama from violating child labor provisions and shipping any product manufactured within 30 days of the labor violations, says the federal statement.

In addition, the manufacturer is required to provide training materials to any entity supplying workers to its Alexander City plant, according to US labor officials. The company must also commit to quarterly child labor training for three years and must impose penalties on anyone found responsible for child labor violations.

The US Department of Labor has not completed its investigation of JK USA Staffing, the spokesperson said.

SL Alabama and JK Staffing were also fined $17,800 each by the state Department of Labor, according to the department. In total, the department claims to have collected more than $35,000 in penalties from the two companies.

The lawsuit comes months after a Reuters report said another Hyundai subsidiary in Alabama employed children. Following the July 22 report, a Hyundai customer filed a lawsuit against the company.

In a July 22 email responding to the report, a Hyundai spokesperson told McClatchy News that the company “does not tolerate illegal employment practices” and complies with local, state and federal laws. The company has not commented on the lawsuit.

On Oct. 11, a spokesperson told McClatchy News that the accused affiliate had severed ties with its third-party agency that hired the miners.

This story was originally published October 11, 2022 5:14 p.m.

Moira Ritter covers real-time news for McClatchy. She graduated from Georgetown University where she studied government, journalism and German. Previously, she reported for CNN Business.

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