Child Labor Charges Against HR in Iowa

A raid on the country’s largest Kosher meat processing plant has led to a number of charges against 3 HR Managers.


The complaint filed by the Iowa attorney general’s office said the violations involved 32 illegal-immigrant children under age 18, including seven who were younger than 16. Aside from handling dangerous equipment, the complaint says children were exposed to dangerous chemicals such as chlorine solutions and dry ice.

Charged are the company itself, Agriprocessors Inc.; plant owner Abraham Aaron Rubashkin; former plant manager Sholom Rubashkin; human resources manager Elizabeth Billmeyer; and Laura Althouse and Karina Freund, managers in the company’s human resources division.

Each defendant faces 9,311 counts — one for each day a particular violation is alleged for each worker.

“All of the named individual defendants possessed shared knowledge that Agriprocessors employed undocumented aliens. It was likewise shared knowledge among the defendants that many of those workers were minors,” the affidavit said.

This is absolutely chilling. The discussion around the SHRM bb is really around how HR can effectively respond to business owners/executives who want to do something illegal without committing career suicide.

I’m sure that many of us have been in this kind of situation before. Probably not as drastic as the above, but a situation that required us to act against what we think is the right thing to do. It’s often difficult to balance what the law requires with what the business needs. But when an owner is blatantly and flagrantly violating the law to the point of putting everyone in legal danger, it really is incumbent upon the HR professional to take immediate action.

The above mentioned HR Managers probably should have known that their employer was breaking the law and gone to the authorities under the protection of the Whistleblower Laws . I know that this is far, far easier said than done. But in light of the charges they are now facing, perhaps they would have been better off.