U.S. Department of Labor Finds Nearly 40 Western Michigan Businesses Violated Wage, Child Labor Laws; Assesses $94,000 in Penalties
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) found violations of the wage and child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) at 38 Western Michigan fast food restaurants and manufacturing facilities during an education and enforcement effort to raise awareness and improve compliance with child labor laws in the region. In all, the initiative assessed more than $94,000 in civil money penalties at restaurants and manufacturing facilities that WHD investigated in the Grand Rapids, Holland, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Muskegon, and Traverse City metropolitan areas.
Among their findings, investigators discovered:
- More than 100 minors, 14- and 15-years-old, employed outside permissible work hours;
- More than 30 minors, 14- and 15-years-old, performing work prohibited by occupational standards for that age group and;
- 10 minors, from 15- to 17-years old, employed to perform hazardous occupations prohibited for minors because of their dangerous nature, such as operating machinery including hoists, meat slicers, vertical dough mixers, and trash compactors, and making time-sensitive food deliveries.
WHD investigators also found more than $33,000 in back wages and liquidated damages owed by employers to 113 employees for minimum wage and overtime violations.
“Education and enforcement initiatives help the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division to collaborate with an industry, determine the root causes of violations, and provide assistance to employers – while protecting vulnerable minor employees while they gain valuable work experience,” said Wage and Hour District Director Mary O’Rourke, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Child labor laws are designed to enable young workers to benefit from real life work experience, but not at the expense of their safety, well-being, or education.”
As part of the initiative, the Grand Rapids District Office conducted 15 outreach events at employer associations, public schools, and through webinars to educate the public on child labor standards including a series co-sponsored by the Kent Intermediate School District in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The series focused on educating school administrators and counselors who certify youth work permits for the state.
The Wage and Hour Division’s Youth Rules website features specific information, posters and quizzes designed to help both youth and employers to learn about child labor laws, including information specific to youth employed in the restaurant industry, hours that minor employees may work, and hazardous orders that prohibit minors from participating in specific dangerous work tasks.
For more information about child labor standards, the FLSA, and other laws enforced by WHD, contact the Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Employers who discover overtime or minimum wage violations may self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program. Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the Division.
WHD’s mission is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the nation's workforce. WHD enforces federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. WHD also enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, and a number of employment standards and worker protections as provided in several immigration related statutes. Additionally, WHD administers and enforces the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act and other statutes applicable to federal contracts for construction and for the provision of goods and services.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.