On May 7, CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired a segment about PSSI’s recent settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). As we have made clear, these local violations of our zero-tolerance policy against hiring underage workers were completely unacceptable, contrary to our values, and shocking to our company.
As has been widely reported, the recent record rise in unaccompanied minors from abroad and rising prevalence of identity theft has unfortunately revealed new vulnerabilities in the area of underage labor across hundreds of different American businesses including ours. Regardless of how this issue emerged, however, it is our responsibility to fix the problem.
We offered to have our attorney in the DOL settlement, a former U.S. Department of Labor Acting Solicitor of Labor, appear on camera to tell our side of the story, but “60 Minutes” refused. As a result, the segment omitted key context and facts, and we wanted to correct the record.
Zero Tolerance Policy Against Underage Labor. We have been crystal clear from the start: Our company has a strong commitment to our zero-tolerance policy against employing anyone under the age of 18, and fully shares the DOL’s objective of ensuring full compliance at all locations. As parents and citizens, we don’t want a single person under 18 working for PSSI, period — and take extensive steps to prevent individuals at the local level from circumventing our wide-ranging procedures.
Identity Theft/Local Fraud Required to Circumvent PSSI’s Policies. Even before the DOL matter, we had extensive procedures to help prevent minors from working at our company — including mandatory use of the government’s own recommended E-Verify system for new hires, training, multiple audits, and a $10 million investment in biometric identity verification. Since PSSI runs all new employees through the government’s E-Verify system to confirm the validity of their identification documents, the only way those procedures could be circumvented is through deliberate identity theft — or fraud or a violation of PSSI’s policies by a local manager.
Immediate Action to Address the Issue, 13-Point Remediation Plan. As soon as we became aware of the DOL’s allegations, we conducted multiple additional reviews of our employee base, and hired a third-party law firm to review and help further strengthen our policies in this area. We have also conducted extensive additional trainings for hiring managers, including on spotting identity theft. We recently hired a new CEO to lead the company going forward and established a $10 million charitable fund to support local community and national efforts to combat child labor violations. Additionally, we established a “See Something, Say Something” campaign to encourage local employees to anonymously report violations of our zero-tolerance policy, and conducted outreach to school districts in every community we serve urging them to contact us if they are aware of minors working at PSSI – among numerous other measures. (Read PSSI’s full 13-point remediation plan here.)
While Even One Violation is Unacceptable, Not a Corporate-wide Issue. While even one local violation of our policies is one too many, during the three-year period DOL was evaluating the company hired nearly 70,000 individuals across approximately 400 plants (with 73% of the alleged violations occurring at three plants). PSSI also successfully completed a dozen audits with DOL Wage and Hour before this inquiry that resulted in no civil penalties or prior child labor violations. PSSI’s compliance procedures caught over 8,000 employee identification verification issues since 2020, illustrating a commitment to rooting out violations, as well as the significant level of identity fraud facing private employers today.
Grand Island Managers Terminated. The 60 Minutes story focused in great part on a plant PSSI previously served in Grand Island, Nebraska, including a 13-year-old hired there. PSSI has made clear that any local employee who accepted identification claiming a 13-year-old was an adult – when that documentation did not reasonably relate to the person in question – clearly violated PSSI’s policies, and that is completely unacceptable. Every single PSSI manager for the Grand Island plant has been terminated and barred from working at any other PSSI facility. Prior news reporting on Grand Island has also documented how this city has an extensive community of unaccompanied minors and identity theft/fraud issues – key drivers of the issues at this plant.
Claims of “Ignored Flags” in Hiring Application Not True. The piece claimed PSSI “ignored flags” if a potential employee initially failed to check a box they were over 18 in an electronic application. This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of PSSI’s hiring procedures. Every single hire still certified they are over 18 during the application process. All of these individuals provided documentation through the government’s I-9 form that they were 18 or older and were then run through E-Verify. The only way those procedures could be circumvented is fraud/identity theft.
E-Verify One of Multiple Measures. The piece implied that PSSI’s use of E-Verify facilitated abuse in its hiring policies, but the federal government itself recommends E-Verify as a “best practice” that helps provide employers “peace of mind” to confirm an individual’s employment eligibility. To be sure, rising identity theft has created new challenges related to the E-Verify system. However, E-Verify is only one of numerous measures – including audits, trainings, and biometrics – PSSI uses to enforce its zero-tolerance policy.
PSSI Cooperated with DOL’s Inquiry. PSSI cooperated with the DOL’s inquiry, including facilitating multiple site visits, employee interviews, and producing more than 100 million pages of documents. PSSI has also terminated every single one of the handful of local plant employees accused of non-cooperation by DOL – proven or unproven.
While the 60 Minutes piece did not tell the full story, we recognize and take full responsibility for the violations that occurred at our company. As we have said before, we are committed to sharing the difficult lessons our company has learned and remedial measures we have taken. We are dedicated to doing everything we can to enforce our absolute prohibition against employing anyone under the age of 18 going forward.