On November 22, a team of state and federal labor officials conducted a surprise inspection and noticed a young-looking worker at a warehouse operated here by the logistics unit of Korean automaking giant Hyundai Motor Group.

The inspectors, according to an Alabama Department of Labor field report, had received a complaint from an unspecified tipster about "under-age children working" at the facility. During their visit to Hyundai Glovis, the report notes, the boy "was manually restacking large metal castings."

Inspectors approached the boy, named in company paperwork as "Fernando Ramos," and questioned him about his age and schooling. Answering in Spanish, the boy said he was 18 years old and had attended a Montgomery middle school. But the documents in his personnel file, inspectors determined later, identified "Fernando Ramos" as a 34-year-old man from Tennessee.