Supreme Court Refuses To Dismiss Child Labor Lawsuit Against Nestle

| by Diana Kruzman
U.S. Supreme CourtU.S. Supreme Court

On Jan. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to dismiss a lawsuit accusing Nestle, the world’s largest food production company, and two other corporations, of supporting child slave labor in Africa.

Nestle SA, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Cargill Inc. asked the Supreme Court to have the case, Nestle Inc v. John Doe, thrown out after an appeals court refused to dismiss it in 2014, according to Reuters. Nestle cited a 2013 ruling in which the court rejected a lawsuit accusing oil company Royal Dutch Shell of aiding torture and murder in Nigeria.

Several other corporations fended off similar lawsuits by citing the 2013 decision, which distanced U.S. companies from human rights violations that occurred in other countries. The Jan. 11 ruling allows a federal appeals court to consider the Nestle case on the grounds that the plaintiffs can update their lawsuit to prove direct company involvement in child labor.

The lawsuit accuses Nestle of knowingly doing business with farmers in West Africa's Ivory Coast who used children as unpaid laborers, motivated by a desire to source cocoa at the lowest possible price, according to the Wall Street Journal. The plaintiffs claim that as children, they were forced to work as slaves in the cocoa fields of Ivory Coast, picking cocoa beans for long hours with no pay. Nestle denies these accusations.

“We’re committed to acting responsibly and transparently,” the company wrote on its website. “Where we have evidence that we’re making a difference, we’ll seek to scale up efforts in these areas. We’ll continue to work with the government and our partners to improve standards across the industry.”

In 2012, Nestle set up a monitoring and remediation system to detect and address cases of child labor exploitation within its farmer cooperatives. The company admits that child labor is still a big issue in many parts of Africa, including Ivory Coast.

Nestle Inc v. John Doe was revived by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco after originally being dismissed by a federal trial judge in 2010. 

Sources: ReutersThe Wall Street JournalNestle / Photo credit: Matt H. Wade/Wikimedia Commons, Dave Dugdale/Flickr