Child labor allegations at Alabama Hyundai factory lead to class action lawsuit

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A class action lawsuit has been filed against Hyundai Motor Company and Hyundai Motor America, following a Reuters report that said the automaker was using child labor at an assembly plant outside Montgomery.

The lawsuit was filed by California resident Lea Reis last week on behalf of current and former Hyundai owners and lessees. The suit claims that Reis would not have bought her 2012 Hyundai Sonata if she had known that Hyundai used child labor to make it. The lawsuit also states that Hyundai broke multiple California laws.

On July 22, Reuters released an exclusive report alleging that Hyundai’s majority-owned subsidiary SMART Alabama LLC used child labor at the plant in Luverne.

According to Reuters, the disappearance of a now 14-year-old Guatemalan migrant girl in February led to the discovery of underage workers at the factory. Police in nearby Enterprise located the missing girl and told Reuters that she and her siblings worked at the plant.

The Enterprise Police Department notified the Alabama state attorney general’s office about possible labor law violations because it does not have jurisdiction at the Luverne plant, located 45 miles away.

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Both Hyundai and SMART Alabama LLC denied the allegations.

“Currently, we have no evidence that there is any truth to these allegations,” Dana White, a spokeswoman for Hyundai, told The Wall Street Journal.

Gary Sport, general manager for SMART, stated that the company complies with all federal, state and local laws.

“SMART denies any allegation that it knowingly employed anyone who is ineligible for employment under these laws,” according to a statement released to WAKA.

The lawsuit comes months after the announcement that Hyundai will build its first U.S. factory dedicated to making electric vehicles near Savannah, Georgia. According to The Associated Press, Hyundai plans to start construction on the plant in 2023 and produce up to 300,000 cars annually in 2025.