Hyundai Elantra 2018 cars

U.S. Department of Labor Sues Hyundai and Suppliers Over Child Labor Violations

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Hyundai and two of its suppliers, accusing them of illegally employing a 13-year-old child in an Alabama assembly line for up to 60 hours a week.

According to the complaint, the staffing agency Best Practice sent the underage worker to SMART Alabama, a company that supplies car parts to Hyundai. The Department of Labor alleges that Hyundai, SMART Alabama, and Best Practice all played roles in this violation. Hyundai owns a majority stake in SMART’s parent company, further implicating it in the case.

The complaint states that from July 11, 2021, to February 1, 2022, the child was employed to operate machines that moulded sheet metal into vehicle body parts, contravening child labour laws as outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman expressed outrage, stating, “A 13-year-old working on an assembly line in the United States of America shocks the conscience. As we work to stop illegal child labour where we find it, we also continue to ensure that all employers are held accountable for violating the law.”

Hyundai has responded, claiming cooperation with the investigation but denying responsibility for the child’s employment. “We are reviewing the new lawsuit and intend to vigorously defend the company,” Hyundai said in a statement to CNN. They asserted that upon learning of the violations, they took immediate action, including ending relationships with the staffing agencies involved.

The company added, “After we learned of the alleged supplier violations, we took immediate action. At our request, the suppliers involved terminated their relationships with the third-party staffing agencies even though those agencies had certified that they had screened and cleared individuals as being of legal age. In addition, we completed an investigation and a broader review of our U.S. supplier network.”

SMART Alabama declined to comment on the matter, and attempts to reach Best Practice for a statement were unsuccessful.

The Department of Labor’s complaint, filed in federal court in Alabama, seeks to recover any profits made from the use of child labour and to secure an order to prevent future child labour violations.

This lawsuit follows a series of investigative reports by Reuters, which highlighted the use of child labour within Hyundai’s supply chain in Alabama.

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