Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
Paterson, NJ, grocer sued by US Labor Department for child labor violations following accident involving 17-year-old worker
PATERSON, N.J. -- The U.S. Department of Labor has filed lawsuit against Mi Esquina Corp., doing business as Paterson grocer El Nuevo Bodegon, and company officer Angel Torres, for violations of the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The suit follows an investigation conducted by the department’s Wage and Hour Division after a 17-year-old minor suffered the amputation of his right arm below the elbow when it was crushed by a meat grinder he was operating in the store.
Investigators found that the minor used, operated and handled a meat grinder, slicer and cutter daily as part of his job duties in the butcher section of the store, in violation of the FLSA’s Hazardous Occupations Order No. 10. This order prohibits minors from operating power-driven meat processing machines such as meat slicers, saws and meat choppers, and also prohibits minors from cleaning the equipment, including the hand-washing of the disassembled machine parts.
Additionally, the investigation disclosed that the employer failed to maintain any records for the injured minor, including proof of age, as required by the law. The company was assessed a penalty of $40,350 for the violations and filed an exception, requesting a hearing.
The department’s Child Labor Enhanced Penalty Program, as established under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, allows it to assess greater penalties in cases involving violations of child labor provisions that cause the death or serious injury of a minor.
“This minor suffered a life-changing injury because he was allowed to perform prohibited, hazardous jobs,” said Joseph Petrecca, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Northern New Jersey District Office.
“Violations of child labor laws will not be tolerated. Employers who commit them will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The severe injury suffered by this teenage boy is a reminder of what can happen when children are permitted to operate hazardous equipment, in violation of the law.”
The suit has been filed with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges. The FLSA establishes an 18-year-old minimum age for those nonagricultural occupations that the secretary of labor finds and declares to be particularly hazardous for 16- and 17-year-old minors, or detrimental to their health or well-being. These rules must be followed unless a specific exemption applies. More information on child labor rules can be found at http://youthrules.dol.gov/.
For more information about federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Northern New Jersey office at 908-317-8611. Information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7828 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America’s employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.