Rio Queen Citrus Inc. paid $11,000 in fines in a settlement with U.S. Department of Labor over a child labor incident.
In an early April visit, labor department investigators discovered a child in the grove with the parents harvesting fruit for the Mission, Texas-based grower-shipper.
The parents didn’t have anyone to care for the child and the field foreman didn’t notice the incident, said Mike Martin, Rio Queen president. He said the incident is unfortunate; the parents and field foreman lost their jobs because it violated company policy.
“It was a complete breakdown that day and certainly wasn’t intentional,” Martin said. “It was one of those crazy issues. We are doing everything we can to prevent it from happening again.”
He said Rio Queen plans to increase policing of harvesting crews and is expanding worker training.
Martin said Rio Queen settled with the agency in early May. Part of the settlement requires quarterly supervisor and field and harvesting foremen training.
Martin disputed a news release from the Department of Labor, which alleged Rio Citrus has a history of employing children.