A Morristown Company is Ordered to Pay Penalties in Child Labor Case

The U.S. Department of Labor said a federal consent judgement has been obtained that requires a Morristown company to stop employing children and to follow federal labor laws.

The judgement comes after the Department of Labor found several children employed in dangerous jobs at Tuff Torq, a manufacturer of outdoor power equipment components for several major companies, including John Deere, Toro and Yamaha.

Officials said the judgement also includes a $296,951 civil money penalty in addition to the employer also setting aside $1.5 million as disgorgement of 30 days’ profits related to its use of child labor.

The proceeds paid by Tuff Torg will then be used for the benefit of the children employed illegally, officials said.

To date, the Department of Labor determined Tuff Torq subjected 10 children to “oppressive child labor.”

Investigators began a probe months ago but obtained “clear evidence of the unlawful conduct of 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,” officials said.

As a result of this, the department prevented the facility from shipping goods, citing the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) “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 Department of Labor’s 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, officials said 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.” Story courtesy of WVLT

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