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OSHA Cites Hershey Co. and SHS Staffing Solutions with Workplace Safety and Health Violations Following Complaints Made by Foreign Students for Exploitive and Unsafe Working Conditions

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Following complaints made by foreign student workers, this week the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Exel Inc., a facility owned by Hershey Co., with nine workplace safety and health violations and proposed $283,000 in penalties. OSHA also issued one citation to SHS Group LP, doing business as SHS Staffing Solutions, and proposed a $5,000 penalty.

The complaint was filed by the National Guestworker Alliance on behalf of a group of foreign students working under the U.S. Department of State’s J-1 visa program, a nonimmigrant visa issued to international students who wish to work in the United States during the summer to learn about the country and promote cultural exchange. These students paid between $3,000 and $6,000 through the Council for Educational Travel USA (CETUSA) to work in the U.S. for three months in order to immerse themselves in American culture. The students complained that they took the job under the impression that they would participate in cultural exchange, but instead found themselves working a low-wage job  that left them will little time, energy or money for cultural immersion.

The complaint alleges abuse of the J-1 visa program, as well as exploitive and unsafe working conditions. OSHA found that for four years, Exel willfully failed to log workplace injuries and illnesses, including those suffered by the foreign student workers.

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division is also conducting an investigation of potential Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations related to the work performed by the CETUSA- sponsored foreign students.

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice  representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

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