The disclosures come one month after Reuters exposed the exploitation of child labor at an additional Alabama car parts factory owned by Hyundai affiliate SMART Alabama LLC.
US authorities charge a Hyundai supplier with child labor violations. The US Department of Labor has charged a Korean-owned auto parts manufacturer and Hyundai Motor Co. supplier of breaching federal child labor regulations at an Alabama factory, according to federal court documents reviewed by Reuters.
According to documents filed on Monday with the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, the Department of Labor (DOL) stated that SL Alabama LLC, a subsidiary of South Korea’s SL Corp, hired minors at its Alexander City, Alabama facility.
Since November, SL Alabama has “repeatedly violated” labor standards by “employing oppressive child labor” and “minors under the age of 16,” according to a six-page complaint from the Department of Labor.
In a statement to Reuters, SL Alabama acknowledged that youngsters had worked at the company, which manufactures headlights, rear lights, and other components for Hyundai and Kia affiliates. SL stated that an unidentified outside labor recruitment firm employed the children.
The disclosures come one month after Reuters exposed the exploitation of child labor at an additional Alabama car parts factory owned by Hyundai affiliate SMART Alabama LLC. At the time, the Alabama Department of Labor stated that it would work with federal authorities to investigate labor abuses at the company.
The finding of child laborers at a second Hyundai supplier indicates that labor practices in the automaker’s US supply chain are under increasing scrutiny. Monday night, Hyundai sent a statement through email stating that “it does not allow illegal hiring practices in any Hyundai organization.”
“Our policies and processes require compliance with all local, state, and federal laws,” the statement continued.
Along with the case against SL Alabama, the court received a proposed settlement agreement between the government and the components manufacturer. Under the terms of this agreement, SL Alabama promised to cease employing kids, to discipline any supervisors who were aware of the use of underage workers, and to sever all ties with recruiters who provide child labor.
The proposed agreement was signed on August 18 by an attorney for SL Alabama and the Department of Labor attorney. However, a judge has not yet signed the document.
The documents did not specify the number of juveniles employed by SL Alabama or the jobs they performed. As a result, it is unclear if the corporation or the labor contractors it uses are subject to fines or other penalties.
The DOL did not reply to comment inquiries. In a statement to Reuters, SL Alabama said, “We completely cooperated with the Department of Labor’s inquiry, and we are enhancing our verification system to prevent minors from working in the future.”
US Child Labor Laws
Federal and Alabama law prohibits teens and children under sixteen from working in most industrial production settings because they can be hazardous for youngsters.
According to its website, SL Alabama employs over 650 individuals at its Alabama location. Additionally, SL Corp has a manufacturing site in Tennessee and a research facility in Michigan.
Reuters has previously reported that some children, frequently immigrants, are hired for factory work in Alabama through employment agencies.
Although staffing services assist fill industrial jobs across the nation, labor advocates have criticized them for allowing employers to outsource the burden of verifying individuals’ eligibility to work.