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Student workers at Hershey facility win back wages

Associated Press Modified: November 14, 2012 at 6:01 pm •  Published: November 14, 2012

HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) — Three companies have agreed in a settlement to pay more than $213,000 in back wages to hundreds of foreign students for summer jobs they held at a Hershey candy company facility, the U.S. Department of Labor said Wednesday.

The settlement also requires two of the companies to pay fines totaling $148,000.

The Hershey Co., whose sweet treats include Kit Kat and Reese's peanut butter cups, owns the warehouse and distribution center but was not cited for violations because it contracts out the operation of it to another company, Exel Inc., Hershey spokesman Jeff Beckman said.

Westerville, Ohio-based Exel, Lemoyne-based SHS Group and the San Clemente, Calif.-based Council for Educational Travel USA agreed to pay $213,042 in back wages to 1,028 foreign students who held summer jobs repackaging candy for promotional displays. The payout is an average of $207 per student.

The three companies overcharged the students for housing, reducing their wages below what they were supposed to be paid, the department said.

Exel agreed to pay $143,000 in fines for excessive workplace noise at the Hershey facility, about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia, to implement a noise abatement plan there and to take steps to ensure compliance with federal workplace rules at its more than 300 other facilities across the country, the department said. SHS was fined $5,000 for repeated violations of labor standards, it said.

"The decision of these companies to play by the rules is a positive step that will ensure that workers are treated fairly, as is legally required," said Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator for the department's wage and hour division.

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