Hyundai Motor Group has been in talks with the U.S. Department of Labor over alleged child labor law violations at multiple supplier manufacturing sites in its U.S. supply chain, the automaker confirmed to Manufacturing Dive Thursday.
The company has held discussions with the Labor Department as it investigates alleged violations at several suppliers and takes corrective action, spokesperson Ira Gabriel said in an email.
The talks centered on “compliance measures across [Hyundai’s] supply chain,” Gabriel said. He also shared measures the automaker is taking steps to “ensure that noncompliance never happens again.”
Hyundai’s actions come after a Reuters report that found children as young as 12 had worked at an Alabama supplier factory owned by subsidiary SMART Alabama LLC. Further reporting found at least four supplier facilities for Hyundai and sister company Kia — including SL Alabama LLC, Ajin Industrial Co. and Hwashin America Corp. — had employed child workers.
In October, the Labor Department obtained a federal court order to stop SL Alabama from employing 13-, 14- and 15-year-old workers, “and to prevent the company from shipping or delivering any goods produced in violation of federal child labor laws.”
After learning of the alleged violations, Gabriel said Hyundai launched an investigation and broader review of its U.S. supplier network. Alabama suppliers were required to submit independent third-party audits of their operations to ensure compliance with child labor laws and take recommended actions.
“The initial findings of these investigations – which included site visits and/or interviews with 29 suppliers – show full compliance with underage labor laws,” Gabriel said. “As a result, Hyundai is confident there are no current underage labor issues at our tier 1 suppliers.”
He added that one supplier’s upper management team had been replaced at Hyundai’s request, and two suppliers terminated relationships with third-party staffing agencies that had “falsely certified that they had screened and cleared underage individuals as being of legal age.”
While the investigation is ongoing, Gabriel said some recommendations have been implemented. These measures include rolling out new employment training programs for suppliers, validating applicant identification documents, installing anonymous tip hotlines, and discouraging suppliers from using third-party staffing agencies.
A Labor Department spokesperson did not directly address issues with Hyundai in a statement to Manufacturing Dive, but reiterated the agency’s commitment to investigate claims of labor law violations.
“No child should be working in any workplace that is dangerous or hazardous to their health, education and well-being,” a Department of Labor spokesperson said in an emailed statement.