The U.S. Department of Labor found a company- Standard Restaurant Supply- violating child labor laws.
Investigators found 22 employees ages 14 and 15 years old were working more than 46 hours per week and were allowed to begin work after midnight.
The business is affiliated with the religious and polygamous sect known as the ‘Kingston Group’ or ‘The Order.’
Former members of the group said they were not surprised by the investigation’s findings.
“I worked at least 12-hour days,” said former member Lu Ann Cooper, who said she started working when she was 5 years old, and worked overtime by age 15.
“I dropped out of school and started working the night shift for their answering service,” said Cooper, “I was the only person in the building or not, but it was scary and I was alone.”
Like Standard Restaurant Supply, the company she worked for was also affiliated with the Kingston Group.
“Oh it was not a surprise at all. The part that was so surprising is that it’s taken so long,” said Shanell DeRieux, also a former member of the group.
She said growing up in the group there was a culture of shame in the workplace, even as a 13-year-old working under their companies.
“They try to make you feel responsible for building it up and for getting things done and for putting in hard labor,” said DeRieux, “But they also try to make you feel guilty for not being willing to do it for free.”
FOX 13 news reached out to Standard Restaurant Supply’s attorney, Ryan Kingston, and asked if the children involved were related to the owners or were part of the order.
He didn’t answer that question, but did send a statement via email:
“Essentially, Standard hires high school students for some positions, who in a few cases, were not following the statutory hours’ schedule set for 14 and 15 years old. The business owner was not aware of the violations.”
It’s not the first time the company has been called out for having child employees.
A lawsuit filed in September by former sect members describes one plaintiff working at Standard Restaurant Supply full-time while still a minor. The business is not a defendant in that lawsuit.
Both Shanell and Lu Ann say they hope there are more investigations into companies affiliated with The Order.
“We need to speak out for these kids because there’s nobody else speaking out for them and they’re taught not to speak out for themselves,” said Cooper.
Standard Restaurant Supply paid $16,595 in penalties to resolve the child labor violations.
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