Little Oscar’s Family Restaurant, a half-century-old institution on Hwy. 52 in tiny Hampton, is facing a $3,500 fine for having 14- and 15-year-olds work more hours than state child labor laws allow.
Administrative Law Judge Barbara J. Case upheld the fine last month, after the restaurant’s owner appealed it. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry will review the judge’s recommendation and make a final decision.
The child labor law violations came to light last year. According to restaurant owner Vicky Dohmen, a minor employee was diagnosed with a concussion after an empty plastic pitcher fell on her head. The incident was reported to the Department of Labor and Industry, Dohmen said, and an audit of the restaurant’s minor employees followed.
A Department of Labor and Industry spokesman declined to comment on the case because it remains open.
The audit found that 14- and 15-year-old employees had on multiple occasions worked more than eight consecutive hours or had worked earlier or later than state law allows. In one case, a 14-year-old employee had worked nearly 12 straight hours.
State law prohibits employees under 16 from working more than eight hours in a 24-hour period or more than 40 hours in a week. They also cannot work outside the hours of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Dohmen said her minor employees’ parents gave permission for their children to work overtime, and she thought that was enough. The fine will be a hardship for her small business, she said — she’s bracing for an upcoming minimum-wage increase and she needs to buy two new freezers.
“The law is the law,” she said. “I should’ve been aware of it.”