Labor Department sues FLDS Church, others for child labor violations; seeks $1.9 million in penalties

Stock image, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — For most children, fall begins a new school year full of possibilities to learn and prepare for their lives ahead and future jobs. Unfortunately, for hundreds of children in Southern Utah and northern Arizona, the season is a time for hard work harvesting pecans by hand for commercial sale.

A multi-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division revealed that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, FLDS church bishop Lyle Jeffs, Dale Barlow, Brian Jessop, and Paragon Contractors Corp. employed young children illegally to harvest pecans.

Wednesday, the department took administrative action to collect $1.9 million in civil penalties from Paragon, Jessop and Barlow associated with child labor violations from the 2012-2013 pecan harvest.

The department also filed a lawsuit against the church, Jeffs and Barlow seeking back wages; and initiated a contempt of court action against Jessop and Paragon for violating a 2007 court order that restrained them from violating child labor laws.

In its investigation, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division found FLDS leaders directed schools in Hildale and Colorado City be closed so that children and adult laborers could work collecting pecans.

During the 2012-2013 harvest, investigators found that at least 175 children under the age of 13 worked harvesting pecans. At least 1,400 FLDS children and adults worked in the fields for no compensation.

“For years, these employers have trampled on the rights of workers, both children and adults, and violated our child labor laws forcing minors to work for them. Such disregard for the rights of all workers, especially children, will not be tolerated,” said Wage and Hour division administrator David Weil. “The legal actions taken today send a clear message that the Wage and Hour Division will take any and all actions necessary to protect the rights of the most vulnerable. Today we speak up for those who could not or would not speak up for themselves.”

To stop oppressive child labor, secure payment of workers’ lawful wages and compel the employers to obey the law, the Department of Labor has taken a series of actions:

  • Between 2013 and April 2015, the Department of Labor successfully litigated numerous subpoena enforcement actions to investigate the child labor violations committed by Paragon and the FLDS Church when the employers repeatedly refused to provide information.
  • The department filed a lawsuit against the FLDS Church, Jeffs, and Barlow Sept. 8, alleging that in 2012 and 2013, these employers violated the minimum wage, overtime, record keeping and child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Also on Sept. 8, the department initiated a contempt of court action against Jessop and Paragon for violating a 2007 court order that restrained them from violating child labor laws, by employing children in the pecan harvest.
  • Finally, the department commenced an administrative action seeking $1.9 million in civil money penalties from Paragon, Jessop, and Barlow for associated child labor violations from the 2012-2013 pecan harvest.

Some penalty assessments against the FLDS Church and Jeffs have already become final orders of the department, as those parties did not contest the penalties when they were assessed against them.


  • Workers and employers can get more information about federal wage laws administered by the Wage and Hour Division by calling the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243)
  • Workers can also file complaints confidentially. Information is available online

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  • 42214 September 9, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    Good, this is one of the ways you fight polygamy. Building permits, zoning laws, labor codes. Do what you can to make life miserable for them.

    • Real Life September 9, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      That’s the least they can do.

  • LTA September 9, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    When will this happen with construction? So many different contractors get polygamists and their 10 kids to work on their sites for one small contracted rate.

  • Dexter September 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    That’s not going to change anything. those people are not going to change their ways.

  • Accountable September 9, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Oh, God forbid that parents should teach their children the fruits of labor and skill sets to be able to sustain themselves. The government needs to redirect their attention to the inner city welfare hoards who only teach (by example) their children to rob, steal, and drug ~ a culture liberal poverty policies. But, of course, that’s racist … so, instead, they polarize on the FDLS.

    • fun bag September 9, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      Hey retard, how come you pligs let your “prophet” rape all those little girls. Maybe if you dysfunctional idiots would stop raping little kids then the feds wouldn’t need to step in, ya think? Oh, and start paying your … taxes and stop trying to cheat the welfare system. You pligs are parasites!
      Ed. ellipsis.

    • 42214 September 9, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      I don’t think it’s an issue of teaching, it’s about expoitation. Big difference.

  • Jeff September 9, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    I don’t know a lot about the FLDS and their culture, but I would assume this is some sort of church sponsored farm / program? The LDS church does similar – we’ve taken my kids (who are under 13) with us to harvest potatoes/other vegetables, clean up at a church owned dairy farm, we vacuum / clean the church, and we do it for free! We do it as an act of service for our church. Whats the difference here?

    • NotSoFast September 9, 2015 at 10:00 pm

      Not much differences Jeff.
      What is faith & believe in ones way of life is looked upon as a not politically correct to others and a way to take away freedoms. It’s always been that way down through the generations. It’s when a truly defective/ sick leader (Jeffs, Jim Jones, Hitler, etc.) enters on stage, that makes mankind take notice and point fingers.

  • KarenS September 9, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    Some commenters are missing the point here. The coercion of the FLDS church leadership towards its members in inherent. Their prophet, Warren Jeffs, is in prison in Texas for sexual abuse of his 12-year-old “wives”. Hopefully he will never get out. These are not little family farms as some described them. The FLDS church leadership requires and punishes its members as it sees fit and answers to no one. I applaud the Labor Dept to prosecute them!

  • Aliceyn September 9, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Do you take your children out of school for their service work? Is the school closed so that all the children can participate? That would be the difference…

  • beentheredonethat September 9, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    Why is the County Sheriff doing nothing about Polygamy? It’s because he’s LDS too! They are of the same cult. The last Sheriff did nothing either. Also LDS. There IS honor among thieves!!!!

  • radioviking September 10, 2015 at 7:13 am

    Yes! Finally. It’s about time. ???
    Time to shut these child rapists down! More good news.

  • Hugh Jass September 10, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Anyone else find humor in the picture associated with this story? The caption should say “Find the biggest NUT in this picture!”

    • ladybugavenger September 10, 2015 at 10:00 pm

      I found it! haha

  • Dexter September 10, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Ed Ellipsis for president 2016.!

  • SSTEED September 11, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Running your kids through the state sponsored brainwash system is fine as long as they are glued to an Ipad or TV when they are not in school and church. Giving them an opportunity to develop skills and confidence… well that is just child abuse. God forbid that the children contribute to the family or the church. I get it though, the second money comes into the picture it really muddies up the water and blurs the line between exploitation and contribution. These kids need something to do and crawling through the leaves picking up nuts is not going to hurt them. I love that we get so worked up about this; but we have no problem buying a new phone every two years that is made in a factory with suicide nets. People don’t even raise their own children anymore. We send them off to the church and state so they can learn to be good consumers and slave for the system. In the meantime, there is a garbage patch the size of Texas in the Pacific but we cant be bothered with the trivial things.

    • fun bag September 11, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      hey ssteed, how come your “prophet” is a convicted pedophile? you really think pligs should be giving advice on children? i think not…

    • Simone September 11, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      “We send them off to the church and state so they can learn to be good consumers and slave for the system. In the meantime, there is a garbage patch the size of Texas in the Pacific but we cant be bothered with the trivial things”. You know something SSTEED? You’re right. A garbage patch in the middle of the ocean is a trivial thing compared to the dozens of garbage patches polluting the air in Hildale and Colorado City.

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