A fundamentalist Mormon church faces legal action from the Department of Labor after allegedly using young children to harvest pecans. Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints members Dale Barlow and Brian Jessop, and Paragon Contractors were fined $1.9 million yesterday for violating federal child labor laws, reports the Hill. Bishop Lyle Jeffs and Barlow also face a lawsuit for back wages, and Jessop and Paragon face contempt of court charges after violating a 2007 order regarding the use of child laborers. The men allegedly shut down schools in Utah and Arizona to supply workers on pecan farms.
“For years, these employers have trampled on the rights of workers, both children and adults, and violated our child labor laws forcing minors to work for them,” says the Labor Department's David Weil. The feds say at least 175 kids under the age of 13 were put to work during the 2012-2013 harvest, as were about 1,200 adults, with no compensation, reports the Deseret News. The kids performed various jobs, "including but not limited to: pruning trees, mowing fields, maintenance duties, picking and bagging pecans, shaking trees, driving equipment, cleanup work, and preparing pecans for commerce," says the federal lawsuit.