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WHD News Release: [09/04/2012]
Contact Name: Scott Allen or Rhonda Burke
Phone Number: (312) 353-6976
Release Number: 12-1716-KAN
Nebraska auction company assessed more than $46,000 in penalties for child labor violations after underage worker suffers serious injury while herding cattle
VALENTINE, Neb. The U.S. Department of Labor has assessed a total of $46,602 in civil money penalties against Valentine Livestock Auction Co. in Nebraska after a 15-year-old employee was crushed against a metal gate by a stampeding calf while herding cattle in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act's child labor provisions.
The injured minor was pinned against a fence by the animal, estimated to weigh between 600 and 700 pounds, before being knocked to the ground and trampled, resulting in multiple injuries. She was airlifted to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where she remained for 40 days.
An investigation by the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division found a total of 26 violations of the FLSA's child labor provisions, including of occupational standards for allowing five minors to work herding cattle; employing three youths under the legal age of employment; employing minors outside of allowable time standards; and failing to record birth dates for 10 minor employees. Additionally, the division found one violation of Hazardous Occupations Order No. 2, which generally prohibits minors from operating motor vehicles, and three violations of Hazardous Occupations Order No. 5, which prohibits minors from operating power-driven woodworking machines.
"This case is another clear example of why it is critical for employers to keep minors safe on the job by learning and complying with America's child labor laws," said Michael Staebell, director of the Wage and Hour Division's Des Moines Area Office in Iowa, which conducted the investigation. "The protection of our working youth is paramount. Employers need to take their responsibilities under the law very seriously. No monetary penalty can undo an injury to a child, but the penalties assessed in this case demonstrate that the Labor Department will use every enforcement tool available to ensure compliance with the regulations we enforce."
The company erroneously believed it was classified as an agricultural employer and thus subject to the FLSA's child labor in agriculture regulations, rather than the regulations pertaining to nonagricultural employers. After the division informed the employer of its status as a nonagricultural employer, the company took steps to comply and to ensure that future violations would not take place. Managers have been trained in child labor regulations, and the company has committed to additional ongoing training. The company also pledged to only allow 14- and 15-year-old employees to perform office work. The civil money penalties assessed have been paid in full.
The FLSA establishes a minimum age of 18 for workers in those nonagricultural occupations that the secretary of labor finds and declares to be particularly hazardous for younger workers. A list of hazardous occupations prohibited for minors is available at http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/docs/haznonag.asp. Additional information on child labor rules can be found at http://www.youthrules.dol.gov/index.htm.
For more information on laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, call the division's Des Moines office at 515-284-4625 or its toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.