Labor Department Sues Poultry Plant That Hired Minors

( – Mar-Jac Poultry is the largest employer in Walker County, Alabama. The processing facility is also in trouble with federal authorities. Minors were found working in the plant. Now the Department of Labor is suing the company.

On May 7, attorneys for the US Labor Department filed a civil lawsuit against Mar-Jac Poultry. According to, Court documents claim Wage and Hour Division investigators discovered child labor taking place at the plant. The kids were working “on the kill floor deboning poultry and cutting carcasses.” Six children reportedly worked at the factory for months.

The Department of Labor wants a judge to allow them to use the “hot goods” provision to force the company to stop selling goods that were produced by child labor. The “hot goods” rule allows the government to stop the sale of goods made while a company is violating child labor, minimum wage, or overtime laws.

Attorneys for Mar-Jac Poultry argued the hot goods pause would hurt workers and cause 1,000 employees to be laid off during that period. Further, they claimed that millions of chickens would be destroyed, go to landfills, and millions of pounds of meat would be lost.

The lawyers also claimed the company fired the teenage employees after learning they’d forged documents to get past the E-verify system.

In January, the Department of Labor cited the company and fined it more than $200,000 after a 16-year-old died at one of its factories in Mississippi. The teenager died in July 2023 when he was deep cleaning a deboning machine. He was caught in the rotating shaft and pulled into the machine, causing fatal injuries. It was the second death in just over two years for Mar-Jac Poultry.

Debbie Berkowitz, a worker safety expert for poultry plants, said the fact that more underage workers were found at the factory one state over from where the fatal accident occurred shows it “is not a one-off.” She accused the company of thumbing its nose at federal law.

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