Perdue, Tyson Foods Face 'Unique' Probe in Child Labor Crackdown
Labor, Employment and Benefits attorney Timothy Taylor was quoted in a Bloomberg Law article about the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) investigation into Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms regarding allegations that their subcontractors violated child labor laws. The DOL's Wage and Hour Division is conducting the probe into the meatpacking companies, which comes after the agency launched an enhanced child labor enforcement initiative. Although the concept of investigating child labor is not new, what makes this situation distinct, according to Mr. Taylor and other professionals, is that a parent company is being held liable for violations committed by a subcontractor.
"I think it is a significant step up and there's obvious pressure to do what they can here when you see these kinds of alleged violations," he commented, adding that the inquiry should serve as a "wake up call" for employers to review what might be happening in their supply chain.
Mr. Taylor also explained that the DOL is attempting to use the joint employment doctrine to make a case against Tyson and Perdue. Under this principle, one employer exerts enough control over the working conditions of its subcontractor's employees to be held liable for those workers.
"DOL will have to prove its case, if it brings one, under these actual standards governing joint employment and it's an open-ended inquiry," he explained. "And it may apply here, it may not. But obviously that's the tool they want to use to try to reach farther than they have before."
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