News Release

US Department of Labor requires Tennessee parts manufacturer to turn over profits from oppressive child labor use, compensate victims

Tuff Torq Corp. to pay $296K civil penalty for employing children to operate dangerous machinery, requiring them to work more hours than the law allows

GREENVILLE, TN – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Solicitor has obtained a federal consent judgment that requires a Morristown manufacturer of outdoor power equipment components for major companies including John Deere, Toro and Yamaha to stop employing children illegally and to follow federal child labor laws in the future. 

The judgment, which comes after the department’s Wage and Hour Division identified several children employed in dangerous jobs, includes a $296,951 civil money penalty. The employer must also set aside $1.5 million as disgorgement of 30 days’ profits related to its use of child labor. The proceeds paid by Tuff Torq will be used for the benefit of the children employed illegally. 

Entered in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greenville on March 22, 2024, the action addressed Tuff Torq Corp.’s illegal employment of children. To date, the department has determined that Tuff Torq subjected 10 children to oppressive child labor.

Division investigators began its probe months ago but obtained clear evidence of the unlawful conduct on Jan. 23, 2024, when they returned to the Tuff Torq facility and observed a child operating a power-driven hoisting apparatus, an occupation prohibited for workers under the age of 18. As a result, the department objected to the shipment of goods from the Morristown facility, citing the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “hot goods” provision, which prevents employers from shipping goods produced by oppressive child labor. 

“Even one child working in a dangerous environment is too many,” said Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman. “Over the past year, we have seen an alarming increase in child labor violations, and these violations put children in harm’s way. With this agreement, we are ensuring Tuff Torq takes immediate and significant steps to stop the illegal employment of children. When employers fail to meet their obligations, we will act swiftly to hold them accountable and protect children.”

In addition to an agreement to comply with the child labor provisions of the FLSA, payment of the full civil money penalty, and disgorgement of profits, Tuff Torq has agreed, among other provisions, to do the following:

  • Contract with a community-based organization to provide regular training to staff, managers and contractors.
  • Establish an anonymous tip line for reporting child labor and other suspected FLSA violations.
  • Allow unannounced and warrantless searches of its facility to three years.
  • Refrain from entering any new contracts with staffing agencies or other contractors with child labor violations and will require contractors to disclose child labor violations and hiring protocols.

“This consent decree holds Tuff Torq accountable while also discouraging future violations, focusing on the supply chain, and striving to make the victims whole,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “This agreement puts in practice what we have long been saying. The department will not tolerate companies profiting on the backs of children employed unlawfully in dangerous occupations. Tuff Torq has agreed to disgorge profits, which will go to the benefit of the children. This sends a clear message: putting children in harm’s way in the workplace is not only illegal, but also comes with significant financial consequences.”

In fiscal year 2023, the department investigated 955 cases with child labor violations, involving 5,792 children nationwide, including 502 children employed in violation of hazardous occupation standards. The department addressed those violations by assessing employers more than $8 million in civil money penalties. 

Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including child labor regulations on dangerous jobs that are prohibited for workers under age 18.

The division offers confidential compliance assistance to anyone – regardless of where they are from – with questions about their wages or how to stay in compliance with the law by calling the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). The department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.

Wage and Hour Division
March 25, 2024
Release Number
Media Contact: Jake Andrejat
Media Contact: Eric R. Lucero
Phone Number
Media Contact: Erika Ruthman
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