Oct 19, 2015

Pecan harvest with polygamous sect kids subject of court hearing

The Salt Lake Tribune
October 19, 2015

Paragon Contractors

A judge this morning will consider how to proceed in a case where a company and a polygamous church are accused of using unpaid children as laborers.

Paragon Contractors and the U.S. Department of Labor will go back to federal court in Salt Lake City. A docket describes Monday's hearing as a status conference, typically where attorneys and the judge set dates for future proceedings.

Paragon is accused of using up to 1,400 children and women from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as unpaid labor during a December 2012 nut harvest at the Southern Utah Pecan Ranch near Hurricane. Children who have since left the sect have submitted affidavits describing working at the ranch for years, sometimes in the cold for 13 hours a day without ever being paid on orders from FLDS leaders.

Paragon had the contract to provide labor for the harvest. The company was already under a federal judge's order from 2007 not to use underage labor.

The Department of Labor contends Paragon violated that order and is asking Judge Tena Campbell to impose sanctions, such as fines or more restrictions on how Paragon conducts business. The Labor Department has already fined the company, its executives, the FLDS Church and the man running its day-to-day operations, Lyle Jeffs, almost $2 million.

Paragon and two of its executives are contesting the fines in an administrative court, and the Labor Department cannot collect money from any of the parties until those appeals are adjudicated.

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