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FLDS investigated for alleged child labor

FLDS investigated for alleged child labor

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SALT LAKE CITY — Federal regulators say a Hildale company and two men are refusing to turn over information in an ongoing child labor investigation involving Fundamentalist LDS Church members.

The U.S. Department of Labor wants a federal court to compel Paragon Contractors Corp., Brian Jessop and Dale Barlow to comply with a subpoena issued by the agency's Wage and Hours Division.

The Labor Department began investigating Southern Utah Pecan Ranch after a CNN report in December showed children working in pecan groves near Hurricane. Paragon, based in the polygamous southern Utah town of Hildale, contracts with the ranch.

"Vulnerable agricultural workers, particularly minors, too often are exploited for a wide variety of reasons,” said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division. “It is for this reason that the department is pursuing all avenues available to obtain the names, ages and contact information of the individuals who were exposed to child labor and minimum wage violations.”

Although Paragon, Jessop and Barlow have turned over some things, regulators say they have either improperly withheld or refused to provide information critical to the investigation.

As a result of its investigation, the Labor Department has already reached an agreement with Southern Utah Pecan Ranch, a Nevada limited liability company, to ensure it complies with federal labor laws.

The agreement requires the ranch to pay up to the full value of the pecans harvested on its property in late 2012 to satisfy any civil penalties, back wages and liquidated damages.

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Dennis Romboy


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