Suit filed amid Hyundai supplier child labor claims

In this photo taken Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, a Hyundai logo is seen on the front of a new car...
In this photo taken Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, a Hyundai logo is seen on the front of a new car at dealership in Kirkland, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)(Elaine Thompson | AP)
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 3:17 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 1, 2022 at 7:58 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A class action lawsuit has been filed against Hyundai Motor America and Hyundai Motor Company after reports that the company used illegal child labor at an Alabama parts supplier.

The lawsuit was filed by California resident Lea Reis on behalf of herself and other current and former Hyundai vehicle owners or lessees. The suit includes those whose automobiles were built at the company’s Montgomery plant with parts or labor supplied by Hyundai subsidiary SMART Alabama LLC., of Luverne.

The lawsuit was brought against the South Korean automaker after a report from Reuters indicated SMART Alabama had used child labor.

According to the Reuters report, underage workers have recently worked at a metal stamping plant operated by SMART Alabama.

SMART is listed by Hyundai in corporate filings as a majority-owned unit and supplies parts for the Elantra, Sonata and Santa Fe vehicles built in Montgomery.

The lawsuit states Reis, who owned a 2012 Hyundai Sonata, would not have purchased the vehicle if she had known the defendants used child labor to build vehicles, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit further claims that the company was in violation of the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act, California Unfair Competition Law, California False Advertising Law and Fraudulent Concealment under California Law.

Reached for comment, the Alabama Department of Labor released the following statement on July 25 regarding the child labor allegations:

“We are coordinating with other agencies (USDOL) to begin investigating. Alabama Child Labor Law 25-8-33 prevents minors under the age of 16 from working in a manufacturing environment, and it also states that the presence of any person under 18 years of age in any restricted business establishment or restricted occupation shall be prima facie evidence of his or her employment therein. That means that regardless of whomever was paying the minor, the presence of the minor alone is all that needed to establish that they are an employee. They were at the SMART factory, they are a SMART employee as far as Alabama Child Labor Law is concerned.”

SMART Alabama has not responded to requests for comment. Hyundai has not yet commented on the child labor allegations involving one of its suppliers, nor the class action lawsuit.

Hyundai’s corporate office released the following statement: “Hyundai does not tolerate illegal employment practices in any Hyundai entity. We have policies and procedures in place that require compliance with all local, state, and federal laws.”

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