According to a compliant filed by the DOL’s Wage and Hour division, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) was prosecuted this year for using child labor to harvest pecans in Utah and Arizona.
The DOL investigation spanned years and won back wages of up close to $2M for child labor violations during the 2012/2013 harvest. According to the complaint, at least 175 children younger than 13 worked the harvest, and at least 1,400 FLDS children and adults worked the pecan harvest for no compensation. Children as young as six worked in the harvest. Workers pruned trees, mowed fields, performed maintenance duties, drove equipment, and picked, bagged and prepared pecans for sale.
The data that economic experts had available to work with in this case was extremely limited, as the DOL described the organization as “willing to flout child labor laws at every turn“, failing to document the ages and hours worked of those involved in the harvest. “As a result of the Defendants’ failure to make, keep and preserve records as required by law, the specific amount of wages owed is yet to be determined.”
This lack of records also impacted potential overtime violation calculations. Economist Dwight Steward, Ph.D. sheds light on how experts measure unmeasured work in wage and hour lawsuits, including suits like this one where the lawsuit is built on “information that simply does not exist.”
The head of the Wage and Hour division, David Weil, said that this lawsuit was part the agency’s work to protect the rights of the most vulnerable and speaking up for those who cannot or would not speak up for themselves.