Appeals Court Tosses Child Labor Case Against Tech Companies

Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

( – On Tuesday, March 5, it was revealed that the federal appeals court dismissed the case brought forward against major tech companies, including Tesla, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), and Dell Technologies. 

In the appeal, former child miners claimed that the major companies had been actively engaging in “forced labor” through the purchase of cobalt. Cobalt is an essential ingredient in the production of lithium-ion electronic batteries. 

International Right Advocates, a nongovernmental organization, filed the lawsuit in Washington, D.C. back in 2019. In the filing, they alleged that Glencore (a British company) and Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt (a Chinese company) had been in charge of supplying the companies with cobalt. According to the complaint, through the purchase of the cobalt, the tech companies were aiding in the exploitation of young child labor in mines in the Republic of the Congo. 

Last week, a three-judge panel found that while the plaintiffs did have the necessary legal standing to file damage claims, the major tech giants’ purchase of “unspecified amounts of cobalt through the global supply chain” does not constitute participation in the use of child labor, according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.

Circuit Judge Neomi Rao argued that there was no way for the former child miners to prove that the tech giants had any control or power over child labor being used in the mining process. She added that there was no way that tech giants had something more than a buyer-seller relationship or that they had any control over the cobalt supply chain processes.

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