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Southern Utah company that used child labor from FLDS Church ordered to pay $1 million in back wages

Posted at 7:45 PM, Jul 02, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY — A southern Utah company that used child labor from the Fundamentalist LDS Church has been ordered by a federal judge to pay more than $1 million in back wages.

In an order issued Tuesday night and obtained by FOX 13, U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell ordered Paragon Contractors to pay the money for a contempt finding for a previous child labor violation.

Paragon Contractors was accused by the U.S. Department of Labor of using hundreds of children from the FLDS Church to work on a Hurricane pecan farm in 2012. Video of it was captured by CNN. Judge Campbell held the company in contempt for a 2006 child labor violation. Federal authorities claimed the children were pulled out of school under orders from church leaders.

“Because the names and ages of the children who worked for Defendants were largely unknown (they were members of an elusive, closely-knit polygamous group in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona), the Sanctions Order set a one-year claims period during which the Department of Labor was to reach out to that community and encourage individuals who worked for Defendants to submit a claim for compensatory payments from the fund based on the number of hours worked,” the judge wrote.

The U.S. Department of Labor calculated the total amount of compensation owed to all the children who worked on the farm at $1.5 million, but that number was reduced somewhat. The judge’s order said 104 people came forward to seek compensation.

Judge Campbell ordered Paragon Contractors, James Jessop and Brian Jessop to pay into a fund within 30 days. The money will then be given to children who were owed money within a year.

“Any sums which cannot be distributed to the claimants, or to their personal representatives, because of the inability of the DOL to locate the proper persons or because of any person’s refusal to accept payment, shall be deposited by the DOL in a special deposit account to be paid to the rightful employee. If such sums are not claimed by the claimant (or a personal representative of the claimant) within three years, the DOL shall deposit them into the United States Treasury as miscellaneous receipts,” she wrote.

An attorney representing Paragon Contractors did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Read the judge’s order here: