With Illegal Child Labor On The Rise, Mom Sues Poultry Plant After Her 16-Year-Old Died On The Job

On February 1, Duvan Robert Tomas Perez’s mother Edilma Perez Ramirez filed a lawsuit over her son’s “‘gruesome’ death” after he died while working at a meat processing plant last July.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has already declared Mar-Jac Poultry, the operator of the Mississippi plant, to be at fault. The Georgia-based poultry company “was cited with 17 violations after investigators found that the plant’s failure to follow safety protocols led to the teenager’s fatal injuries.” In addition, OSHA proposed upwards of $200,000 in fines.

Sixteen-year-old Perez, a Guatemalan migrant, died when he “was cleaning a machine in the deboning area of the Mar-Jac plant in Hattiesburg, Miss., on July 14 last year, when he was caught in the machine’s rotating shaft and pulled into it,” said OSHA.

This was the third instance of a worker dying “in less than three years at the Hattiesburg…plant,” as concerns about child migrant labor are on the rise.

Perez should not have been cleaning the meat-processing machine in the first place, because the federal regulators at the Department of Labor (DOL) said the job is “too dangerous.”

According to his grieving mother’s lawsuit, “Mar-Jac and its affiliates have a long and sordid history of willful disregard for worker safety.”

Legal representation for Edilma Perez Ramirez filed papers against both the poultry processing company and Onin Staffing, the agency that hired her son at the Forest County Circuit Court. Ramirez is alleging that Mar-Jac Poultry skirted safety protections, leading to the death of her son Duvan Perez.”

“She is seeking an unspecified amount of expenses and damages, including compensatory and punitive damages, which will be determined by a jury,” USA Today reports. “[M]edical-related expenses; funeral and burial costs; and the value of Duvan’s future earnings,” are included in the amount for the damages, Ramirez is asking for. “The suit also seeks compensation for the loss of family caused by Duvan’s untimely death and the enjoyment of his life.”

In a statement, Ramirez’s attorney Jim Reeves said “Perez was hard-working and loved his family…One of the things he was most proud of was paying for his first car himself. It is a tragedy that this young life was taken when his death was easily preventable.”

“Mar-Jac and its affiliates have a long and sordid history of willful disregard for worker safety,” the complaint reads. “For example, in 2009, OSHA proposed almost $380,000 in penalties against Mar-Jac and its affiliates for health and safety violations. They were cited for four ‘willful violations’ (including) failure to establish specific procedures to maintain the integrity of processing equipment.”

“These working conditions have to change,” stated Reeves. “Chick-fil-A is one of Mar-Jac’s largest customers. It and other Mar-Jac customers should insist on better working conditions or stop doing business with them.”

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