Hyundai Sued by Labor Department for Child Labor

Chris Teague
by Chris Teague

A couple of years ago, reports of child labor began dogging Hyundai, and it appears the government is finally ready to do something about it. The Department of Labor sued the automaker this week, naming three defendants: Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama LLC, SMART Alabama LLC, and Best Practice Service LLC.

The suit is due to reports of the automaker and its contractors employing a 13-year-old child, though earlier reports claimed that children as young as 12 were working in its facilities. Shockingly, the teenager put in adult-sized workweeks, clocking 50 to 60 hours on the assembly line.

Though it relied on staffing companies and contractors, the Labor Department said that the companies’ operations were deeply intertwined, making them liable as a single employer under the law. The 13-year-old girl was reportedly joined by siblings aged 12 and 15, and none went to school, according to people close to the issue.

Hyundai said it had worked for several months to investigate its suppliers and promised that it had taken immediate steps to fix the problems. It separated itself from SMART, an auto parts manufacturer, and that company changed its name last year.

While some states, including Arkansas, have loosened child labor laws to boost workforce participation, there has to be a limit to the kinds of work they are allowed to perform. I washed dishes in a pizza restaurant when I was 14, but I certainly didn’t work in a metal stamping facility. Hyundai can blame its partners all it wants, but ignorance is not an excuse when this has reportedly happened multiple times.

[Images: James R. Martin via Shutterstock]

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Chris Teague
Chris Teague

Chris grew up in, under, and around cars, but took the long way around to becoming an automotive writer. After a career in technology consulting and a trip through business school, Chris began writing about the automotive industry as a way to reconnect with his passion and get behind the wheel of a new car every week. He focuses on taking complex industry stories and making them digestible by any reader. Just don’t expect him to stay away from high-mileage Porsches.

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3 of 43 comments
  • Daniel J Daniel J on Jun 03, 2024

    Alabama child labor law can be found here:

    I have to wonder if she forged her age or parents did. 16/17/18 year olds really don't have an hourly limitation, just time limitation on how many hours they can work.

    I have to believe fraud/forgery had to occur for this to happen, and the hiring agency looked the other way.

    • 1995 SC 1995 SC on Jun 03, 2024

      The Reuters piece said they were migrant children so there probably isn't a very strenuous review of the documentation for new hires.

  • Cprescott Cprescott on Jun 03, 2024

    I can't believe any American child would want to work to earn money. It is hard enough to get them to want to work after age 18.

  • FreedMike Not much to look at, but these were sweet to drive.
  • EBFlex Ford finally making a good decision although they should shut down their EV operations and investment all together. Why lose that money too?
  • Mike Lol. This is the king of suvs. And its made by GM.Why is everyone trashing it?Top of its its class for a quarter century.
  • Frank Drove past there last week, plant has a huge poster of a bronco on the outside. I was thinking "Is that where they build the new broncos?" I know they use to make the Edge and that other mundane SUV there but I believe both have been canned.
  • CanadaCraig Toyota saw this coming. So good for them for being courageous enough to say, "Wait a minute. Let's not rush into anything."