June 10, 2016 — A federal judge has found a company run by FLDS leaders to be in contempt of court for forcing hundreds of children to work on a pecan farm in Southern Utah.
Brian Jessop and Paragon Contractors Corporation violated a 2007 court order banning the use of children on the farm.
In the 2012-2013 harvest, FLDS leaders closed the schools in Hildale and Colorado City so that children and adults could harvest pecans, according to St. George News.
Investigators said least 175 children under 13 years old were forced to work. At least 1,400 older children and adults harvested pecans for no compensation. Witnesses said they were threatened with losing their family and being removed from the church if they refused to work on the farm.
The government said children as young as 6 years old worked for long hours, got sick, and were sent to work even if they were allergic to nuts.
One witness and FLDS member said he sent five children to work on the pecan harvest after they were 8 or 9 years old. The children were sent “any time the Church told us to, and they generally worked Monday through Saturday.”
Defendants attempted to show that the children volunteered to work on the pecan harm. However, this was directly contradicted by testimony from children who said they “really didn’t have a choice.” His sister, Phoebe Barlow said:
“There were days when I was given no choice as to whether or not [to] work at the pecan harvest. Even if I did not go, my school was shut down so I could not attend school.”
Last year,theU.S. Department of Labor fined the FLDS Church $1.9 million for violating child labor laws from the 2012-2013 pecan harvest.