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Child labor violations bring fines

  • Article by: Jane Friedmann
  • Star Tribune
  • February 1, 2011 - 5:21 PM

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry collected fines from seven employers in 2010 who were found to have violated state child labor laws.

The department's labor standards unit has four investigators who look into reported violations of laws governing minor workers, minimum wage and overtime, among other rules. The unit's hotline received more than 25,000 calls last year.

State law prohibits minors under 18 from working in hazardous jobs or those considered "detrimental to their well-being." Minors under 16 can work only limited hours. Those under 14 can work only certain jobs, such as babysitting, or on a farm or in a family business.

Additional restrictions apply to work in businesses where alcohol is present.

The highest fines for state child-labor violations are assessed for injuries. All business listed have paid their fines with the exception of Papa Murphy's. I listed them by the size of the penalty.

1 Papa Murphy's Pizza, Northfield, $8,500 fine, $1,245.83 of which has been paid

The business allowed two 16-year-olds and one 15-year-old to operate a dough-flattening machine and use hazardous cleaning products.

Owner Brian Parrish told the state that he had a sticker on the dough machine that prohibited its use by anyone under 18 years old.

Parrish also couldn't provide proof of age for 18 employees or complete work schedules for review. The department closed the case and referred the fine to a collection agency.

2 KW Billman Co., Rochester, $6,000 fine

A 17-year-old was carrying roofing debris at a construction site when he slipped and fell, injuring his shoulder and head. Minors are prohibited from working at construction sites.

The roofing company was fined for the injury and for employing another minor, a 16-year-old, at the site.

Office manager Mike Halloran responded that "we will no longer be hiring anyone under 18."

3 Prairie Restorations, Princeton, $5,000 fine

A 16-year-old, working on a farm as a laborer, was injured when he fell out of the back of a moving pickup truck. The teen stated he blacked out and had a bloody nose and a gash above his eye. He told the investigator that "they were not horsing around or anything and that he was just staring out the pick-up truck and then the next thing he knew he was on the ground."

Company president Ronald W. Bowen wrote the agency that "we have established new guidelines that will have zero tolerance and will not include any transportation of farm personnel in the open back of a pick-up truck."

4 CMZ Inc., doing business as City Cafe, Rochester, $3,750 fine

Three children under age 14 were employed. Two of them, including a 10-year-old, worked in an area where alcohol was served.

Chief financial officer Denise Villeneuve wrote the state that "I had understood that it was allowed that an [redacted] be allowed to work when immediately supervised by [redacted] and I stand corrected."

The business couldn't provide proof of age for one additional minor.

5 Caribou Highlands Lodge, Lutsen, $2,000 fine

A 17-year-old server said she sometimes served liquor to customers. Children under 18 are not allowed to work in a room where alcohol is served. A 15-year-old was one year too young to be working as a dishwasher in the restaurant.

6 Beef 'O'Brady's, Northfield, $1,000 fine

A 17-year-old was working as a server in a room where liquor was served. Owner Tina Severson wrote to the state that minors were allowed to work as servers under her previous beer and wine license and she didn't realize the strong-liquor license she got in 2009 carried different rules.

7 Oxygen Plus Inc., Mahtomedi, $250 fine

The company could not verify the age of a high school student who was employed under a school work program.

Hard Data digs into public records and puts a spotlight on rule breakers in the Twin Cities and Minnesota. Contact me at jfriedmann@startribune.com.

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