District Judge Steven Ferrazzano has been charged with using a 13-year-old child to operate a meat grinder, oven and forklift against Southwestern Minnesota meat processor Tony Downes. It refused to dismiss the temporary injunction.
In Wattonwan County court, lawyers for Downs Food Group argued that the company didn’t know anyone under the age of 18 was working at its factory until it read about it in a news release.
According to the state complaint, at least eight children under the age of 18 were working through the night or their shifts ended early in the morning.
Two were identified at ages 14 and 15, and six at ages 16 and 17.
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The investigation began in late January, according to court documents. DLI investigators said he visited Tony Downs after the complaint.
The company has said it plans to cooperate fully with the DLI, but said it didn’t know what the investigation was until it read about it in Wednesday’s news release about the restraining order. State investigators said they had been looking for information for several weeks.
Attorney Steve Schleicher, better known as the prosecutor in the Derek Chauvin trial, represents Downs Food Group. He released the names of the eight minors and asked for the temporary protection order to be lifted. He argued that this was based on what the company believed was a subjective assessment of an employee’s appearance and not other criteria developed at DLI.
“What is needed is the finding of this court order. The parties will continue to work together and work together to find a workable and practical solution to identifying individuals who may be working underage in that factory.” to order,” he said. We have no interest in maintaining the employment of underage individuals. “
Lawyers for the company also argue that the temporary injunction doesn’t actually go against child labor, arguing that the company shares the same purpose.
In response, state attorneys argued that due diligence was exercised in investigating the complaint. They obtained them when investigators met with school officials concerned about the students’ academic and physical health.
Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Johnston, who represents staff at the Downs Group of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, wasn’t keen on scrutinizing job seekers’ ages.
“Looking at a person and identifying that they may look young and are worth scrutinizing is just the beginning of the common sense step,” she said. The fact that we’re using the methods we’ve used to reach that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do it, nor does it mean we didn’t have to put in place both policies and practices that were actually effective. They clearly weren’t.”
After leaving a temporary restraining order, Judge Ferrazzano set another hearing for April 6.