Feds settle child labor complaint involving FLDS children

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HURRICANE, Utah — Federal labor officials have reached an agreement with a rancher here, accused of violating child labor laws by using children from the Fundamentalist LDS Church to pick pecans.

The U.S. Department of Labor said news reports showed young children working in the fields at Southern Utah Pecan Ranch in December. The agency said its investigation was continuing, but the ranch’s contractor, Paragon Contractors Corp., had agreed to prevent future violations.

“We are pleased that this grower has agreed to take responsibility to make sure the contractors it hires to harvest pecans on its ranch operate in compliance with federal labor laws,” said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest, in a statement released Friday.

“Vulnerable agricultural employees, particularly minors, too often are exploited for a wide variety of reasons. The department remains committed to the vigilant protection of those workers’ safety and rightful wages, and to the enforcement of all applicable labor laws. Agreements such as this one significantly help us advance toward that goal.”

The agency said the alleged violations may not have violated Utah law, which exempts children for agricultural work. However, federal law may still apply.

The statement released by the U.S. Department of Labor said Southern Utah Pecan Ranch voluntarily agreed to hold the shipment of pecans picked during the time of the suspected violations, as well as paying any civil penalties, back wages and other damages.

The agency said it had previously cited Paragon Contractor Corp., based in Hildale, for child labor violations.

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