- Associated Press - Thursday, November 3, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah concrete company with ties to a polygamous group has agreed to pay about $145,000 to settle a federal child labor case alleging it put at least two underage laborers to work for long hours with little pay on job sites around the country.

Along with back wages and damages, Phaze Concrete agreed Wednesday to pay minimum wage in the future and not to use underage workers or keep employees on the job for more than 40 hours a week, according to court documents.

Federal attorneys have said Phaze drew teenagers from the polygamous group to work on contract jobs for companies such as Wal-Mart, Scheels All Sports and Hobby Lobby for nearly a decade.

The Hildale, Utah-based company disputes the allegations but reached the agreement to avoid costly litigation, it said in the settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor. A judge must still approve the agreement.

Lawyers for the company and the Labor Department didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday.

Two teenagers said in court documents that they were put to work at ages 12 and 14, spending 12 hours a day or more pouring concrete and operating heavy equipment such as backhoes.

They were paid about $200 every two weeks, though sometimes the checks didn’t appear, prosecutors said.

Phaze has acknowledged that three teenagers worked on a job site two years ago but said it hasn’t happened since.

Authorities had no evidence of new problems.

The case filed in August follows other investigations and court cases linked to the secretive polygamous group known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

It’s been tied to abuses such as underage marriage and discrimination against non-members of the church living in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.

Earlier this year, a judge found that another company affiliated with the church, Paragon Contractors, used hundreds of children, some as young as 6, as laborers on a pecan farm. The judge is now weighing what sanctions to impose on the company.

Paragon has denied the allegations, saying children and families from the group volunteered to pick up fallen nuts for the needy.

A jury in Arizona found this spring the town unconstitutionally denied basic public services such as police protection to residents who weren’t sect members.

Several church leaders have also been charged in Utah with conducting what prosecutors call a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud scheme. High-ranking leader Lyle Jeffs escaped home confinement in the case and remains on the run.

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