On October 16, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it had fined a North Carolina poultry processor $12,400 after an investigation revealed that two minors working in the company’s deboning department were using powered equipment.
Investigators found that a 16- and 17-year-old working at the House of Raeford Farms plant in Teachey, N.C., were required to operate an electric knife, which violated federal child labor regulations prohibiting workers under the age of 18 from operating or cleaning powered meat processing equipment, including meat slicers.
DOL district director Richard Blaylock described the situation as “particularly disappointing” because the company had been cited previously for the same type of violation.
The company blamed “an unfortunate administrative error” for causing the minor employees to be placed in positions that were not appropriate for their age. A company spokesperson said that, going forward, its Corporate Compliance Officer will regularly review an active employee list to verify that all employment requirements are met.
Federal penalties for child labor violations can be as much as $11,000 per worker, per violation. Child labor penalities are higher than penalties for any other type of wage and hour violation, and are more regularly imposed by the DOL.
Employers who hire minors must obtain documented proof of age. And, they must ensure that the work performed by minors complies with federal and state child labor requirements. The law not only limits the type of work minors can perform, but also the number of hours and time of day they can work. Some states also require minors to have work permits. See our FYI: Child Labor Requirements outlining federal, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming requirements and call MSEC for assistance.