SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has ordered a southern Utah company to pay $200,000 into a fund for children who were put to work on a pecan farm under orders from leaders of the Fundamentalist LDS Church.
In an order handed down this week and obtained by FOX 13, U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell issued sanctions to Paragon Contractors and Brian Jessop.
“Behind a veil of secrecy in Southern Utah’s desert country the Defendants profited from the labor of a religious community’s children in violation of the court’s previous injunction,” Judge Campbell wrote. “Having already found the Defendants in civil contempt, the court now imposes sanctions.”
The judge also ordered someone appointed to oversee the company and ensure it complies with her orders.
Judge Campbell found Paragon Contractors and Brian Jessop in contempt of court back in June for an incident that occurred in 2012. More than a thousand FLDS children were spotted picking pecans on a Hurricane farm. That was in violation of a 2007 order on child labor law violations the U.S. Department of Labor sued over.
In her ruling, Judge Campbell laid some of the blame on FLDS Church leaders, whom she said threatened retaliation if the children didn’t go to work on the farm.
“The children’s working conditions were often harsh. The children did not have an opportunity to rest if they wanted and often were not given any lunch. Many children testified that they were forced to work in cold weather,” the judge wrote, adding:
“Children tried to spend time in the port-a-potties to warm up, or in the vans, but were forced to return to the harvest. Additionally, because there were not enough port-a-potties for all the children, they occasionally resorted to soiling their pants.”
Read the judge’s full ruling here: