Mormon Sect-Tied Company’s Fight of Child Labor Contempt Order Premature

(CN) – A 10th Circuit panel on Friday declined a Utah contractor’s request to be severed from litigation against Paragon, a company with ties to a Mormon sect that was fined by the U.S. Department of Labor and found in contempt of a court order for using child workers to harvest pecans.

Compound of former Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs, in Colorado City, Arizona.

The contractor, Par 2, argued before the panel this past September that its due process rights were violated when a federal judge included Par 2 in contempt proceedings against Paragon, which had been warned against using child laborers in 2007. It took the appeals panel little more than 10 weeks to deny the request.

“We do not reach the merits of Par 2’s due process argument because we conclude the argument is premature,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Carlos Lucero, a Bill Clinton appointee, in an unpublished 11-page opinion issued Friday.

The Department of Labor fined Paragon for using 1,400 child laborers on a pecan farm in 2012 to 2013, a fine upheld by the 10th Circuit in 2018. The department also asked for Paragon to be held in contempt, citing a 2007 warning against using child labor provided by Warren Jeffs, infamous leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The sect is not recognized by the Mormon Church.

Since Par 2 was formed by Paragon’s former employees, performed similar work for similar clients, and at one point shared office space, the lower court judge named it a successor in liability should Paragon fail to pay $3 million in lost wages and penalties. Par 2 complained the lineage violated its due process rights, but the panel found it’s too early to say whether Par 2’s rights have been violated.

“If Par 2 is in fact held liable for back pay and civil penalties, it will have the opportunity to challenge the process provided to it during those proceedings,” Lucero wrote.

Also asked to review the application of the contempt order to Par 2, Lucero said “that the record clearly and convincingly establishes Par 2 operated as a disguised continuance of Paragon.”

Obama appointee U.S. Circuit Judge Scott Matheson Jr. and U.S. Circuit Judge Harris Harts, a George W. Bush appointee, rounded out the panel.

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