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Hyundai, Kia parts supplier in Alabama fined for child labor

The US Department of Labor found workers aged 13 to 15 at a parts supplier to automakers Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Corp and fined the company.

Authorities found children as young as 13 who worked at a Korea-operated parts supplier to automakers Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Corp and have fined the company and a recruiter, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Alabama Department of Labor said on Tuesday with.

In August, authorities charged SL Alabama, based in Alexander City, Alabama, in federal court with violating child labor laws.

The lawsuit against SL Alabama, which supplies lights and mirrors to Hyundai and Kia assembly plants in the southern United States, comes after a July Reuters article alleging child labor practices at another auto parts supplier in the state, Hyundai-owned SMART Alabama LLC , have been documented .

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) said in a news release that workers ages 13 to 15 were found at the SL Alabama plant and said it fined the company, a unit of Korea’s SL Corp, about $30,000 US dollars imposed. SL Alabama agreed to implement new monitoring and training programs, the federal regulator said. DOL said it also obtained a court order to prevent the plant from “shipping or delivering” goods manufactured in violation of federal child labor laws.

“Our investigation found that SL Alabama was involved in oppressive child labor,” Kenneth Stripling, head of DOL’s Birmingham, Alabama, wages and hours division, said in the statement.

In a separate statement Tuesday, the state of DOL of Alabama said it had imposed civil penalties totaling about $35,000 on SL Alabama and JK USA, a temporary worker recruitment firm. JK USA employed five minors, between the ages of 13 and 16, at the factory, the state DOL said.

SL Alabama told Reuters in a statement that a staffing agency provided the plant with some employees who are not old enough to work there. SL said it worked with regulators, ended its relationship with the staffing firm, agreed to fines and other corrective actions, and replaced the facility’s president.

SL “never knowingly hired minors to work at any of its facilities,” the company said. JK USA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Regulators said plant operators are responsible for child labor violations even if unauthorized employees are hired by outside recruitment firms.

“Employers have a responsibility to know who is working in their facilities,” the DOL statement said.

Regulators have not accused Hyundai and Kia of wrongdoing in the case.

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