Girl Worked 60-Hour Weeks Making Parts for Hyundai: Feds

Lawsuit claims car maker, a subsidiary, and a staffing agency profited illegally in Alabama
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2024 9:33 AM CDT
Girl Worked 60-Hour Weeks Making Parts for Hyundai: Feds
In this Jan. 27, 2011, file photo, a Hyundai Elantra, left, and Hyundai Sonatas move down the assembly line in the Hyundai manufacturing plant in Montgomery, Ala.   (Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

She worked up to 60 hours a week making car parts for Hyundai. According to the feds, she was just 13. The Labor Department sued Hyundai on Thursday, accusing the company of using child labor at the SMART Alabama factory in Luverne, which supplies parts for Hyundai's assembly line in nearby Montgomery. The case goes beyond the alleged employment of the 13-year-old. The suit claims at least three minors worked at the factory in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In a statement, Hyundai said child labor is "not consistent" with its standards and values and the Labor Department used "an unprecedented legal theory that would unfairly hold Hyundai accountable for the actions of its suppliers," per CBS News.

Reuters first reported that up to 50 children were working for the Hyundai subsidiary as part of a 2022 investigation. It uncovered a letter in which a general manager had complained the Luverne plant was "severely lacking in labor" and Hyundai "will not tolerate such shortcomings." In response, SMART denied "that it knowingly employed anyone who is ineligible for employment." It said it relied on temporary work agencies, which it expected "to follow the law in recruiting, hiring, and placing workers on its premises." The Labor Department claims the three children were recruited by staffing agency Best Practice Service, which is no longer in business, per the New York Times. But it adds Hyundai is liable as well as the other two companies.

"Companies cannot escape liability by blaming suppliers or staffing companies for child labor violations when they are in fact also employers themselves," the department's chief legal officer, Seema Nanda, says in a release. The feds demand that the companies surrender all profits related to the alleged child labor. The 13-year-old girl reportedly worked at the plant from July 2021 up until February 2022, when she was reported missing to local police. While tracking her down, police learned she and two brothers, aged 12 and 15, worked at the plant rather than go to school, per Reuters. Police then notified the state attorney general's office. Reuters noted the facility had "a documented history of health and safety violations, including amputation hazards." (More child labor stories.)

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