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Hyundai sued by DOL after manufacturing plant employed 13-year-old on an assembly line

Written by on May 31, 2024

The Hyundai Motor Co. logo is seen on the front grill of a Santa Fe sports utility vehicle (SUV) at the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) facility in Montgomery, Alabama, July 19, 2017. — Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Department of Labor filed a complaint against a Hyundai manufacturing plant in Alabama that allegedly employed a 13-year old child to work over 50 hours per week on an assembly line.

The child was jointly employed by the Hyundai manufacturer, another auto parts manufacturer and a staffing agency, the complaint says. The agency is asking a court to prevent the three companies from employing children illegally, according to the complaint.

“A thirteen-year-old girl worked up to 50-60 hours per week at [a] manufacturing facility in Luverne, Alabama over a period of six to seven months,” the filing said. “Instead of attending middle school, she worked on an assembly line making parts.”

In the complaint, the agency also asked the court to require the three companies to “surrender profits related to the use of oppressive child labor.”

“Defendants unfairly profited by their use of oppressive child labor. Consumers throughout the United States unknowingly purchased automobiles that were manufactured with oppressive child labor,” the filing said.

The latest action signals an aggressive approach by the federal agency to hold companies accountable, even as several states are working to relax child labor laws.

“Companies cannot escape liability by blaming suppliers or staffing companies for child labor violations when they are in fact also employers themselves,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda.

In a statement to ABC News on Thursday, Hyundai said the “use of child labor, and breach of any labor law, is not consistent with the standards and values we hold ourselves to as a company.”

“We worked over many months to thoroughly investigate this issue and took immediate and extensive remedial measures,” the company said in the statement. “We presented all of this information to the U.S. Department of Labor in an effort to resolve the matter, even while detailing the reasons why no legal basis existed to impose liability under the circumstances. Unfortunately, the Labor Department is seeking to apply an unprecedented legal theory that would unfairly hold Hyundai accountable for the actions of its suppliers and set a concerning precedent for other automotive companies and manufacturers. We are reviewing the new lawsuit and intend to vigorously defend the company.”

Last year, the Labor Department investigated 955 cases of child labor violations, involving 5,792 children nationwide, including 502 children employed in violation of hazardous occupation standards.

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