US authorities accuse Hyundai supplier of child labor violations

A Korean auto parts maker and supplier to Hyundai Motor Co is accused of violating federal child labor laws at an Alabama factory, according to documents filed in federal court. ―Photo Reuters

Tuesday, August 23, 2022 11:58 AM MYT

NEW YORK, Aug. 23 — The U.S. Department of Labor yesterday charged a Korean auto parts maker and supplier to Hyundai Motor Co with violating federal child labor laws at a factory in Alabama, according to court filings. Federal Court reviewed by Reuters.

The Department of Labor (DOL) said SL Alabama LLC, a subsidiary of South Korea’s SL Corp, employed underage workers at its plant in Alexander City, Alabama, according to documents filed with the district court yesterday. American from the Central District of Alabama.

Since last November, SL Alabama “has repeatedly violated” labor regulations by “employing oppressive child labor” and “minors under the age of 16,” the DOL said in a six-page complaint.

In a statement to Reuters, SL Alabama admitted children had worked at the factory, which makes headlights, taillights and other components for companies including Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia. SL said the miners were hired by an outside labor recruitment company, which it did not identify.

The revelations come a month after Reuters reported the use of child labor at another Alabama auto parts plant operated by Hyundai subsidiary SMART Alabama LLC.

The Alabama Department of Labor said at the time that it would coordinate with federal authorities to probe labor practices at the plant.

The discovery of child laborers at a second Hyundai supplier signals a major review of labor practices in the automaker’s U.S. supply chain. In a statement emailed late yesterday, Hyundai said “it does not condone illegal employment practices at any Hyundai entity”.

“We have policies and procedures in place that require compliance with all local, state and federal laws,” he added.

Along with the lawsuit against SL Alabama, a proposed settlement agreement between the government and the parts manufacturer was filed with the court. Under the terms of this agreement, SL Alabama has agreed to stop hiring minors, to punish any responsible who knows about the use of underage employees, and to suspend any relationship with any recruiter who supplies children.

The proposed agreement was signed Aug. 18 by an attorney from SL Alabama and an attorney from the Department of Labor. It has not yet been signed by a judge.

The documents did not detail the number of miners working at SL Alabama or the type of jobs they performed. It is unclear whether the company or the contractors it works with are subject to fines or other penalties.

The DOL did not respond to requests for comment.

In its statement to Reuters, SL Alabama said “we have cooperated fully with the Department of Labor’s investigation and are in the process of completing our verification system so that minors do not work in the future.”

Federal law and Alabama law prohibit teenagers and children under the age of sixteen from working in most industrial plants because it can be hazardous to minors.

SL Alabama employs about 650 people at the Alabama plant, according to its website. Parent company SL Corp also operates a factory in Tennessee and a research center in Michigan.

Previous Reuters reporting has shown how some miners, often immigrants, are hired for jobs in Alabama factories through recruitment agencies.

Although recruitment firms help fill industrial jobs nationwide, they have been criticized by labor advocates for allowing employers to outsource the responsibility of vetting employees and their work eligibility. . ― Reuters

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