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US sues Hyundai over child labour

May 31, 2024

(CNN) — The United States Department of Labour alleged on Thursday that Hyundai and two of its supplier companies illegally employed a 13-year-old who was kept working for up to 60 hours a week on an assembly line in Alabama.

In a new complaint, the department alleges Best Practice, a staffing agency, sent the child to work at SMART Alabama, which provided car parts to Hyundai.

The complaint alleges all three companies were responsible for employing the child.

Hyundai owns a majority of SMART’s parent company, according to the complaint.

The child was employed on machines that formed sheet metal into body parts for vehicles, the complaint alleges, adding that from July 11, 2021, through February 1, 2022, all three companies were guilty of violating child labour provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“A 13-year-old working on an assembly line in the United States of America shocks the conscience,” Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman said in a statement.

“As we work to stop illegal child labor where we find it, we also continue to ensure that all employers are held accountable for violating the law.”

Hyundai said it had cooperated with the department’s investigation but that it is not responsible for the employment of the child.

“We are reviewing the new lawsuit and intend to vigorously defend the company,” Hyundai said in a statement provided to CNN.

Hyundai said it took steps to fix the issue upon learning of it and has taken steps to prevent any future employment of under-age workers.

“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, Hyundai said. “In addition, we completed an investigation and a broader review of our U.S. supplier network.”

SMART declined to comment on the complaint when reached by CNN.

CNN has been unable to reach the staffing company Best Practice.

The complaint, filed in an Alabama federal court, seeks an order requiring the companies to release any profits related to the use of child labour as well as an order to stop any future use of child labour.

Hyundai and its suppliers had been the subjects of a series of investigations by news service Reuters into the use of child labour in Alabama.

A view shows the Hyundai assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 2022. The Department of Labor has sued Hyundai over child labour. (Photo by Cheney Orr/Reuters/File via CNN Newsource)

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