PORTLAND, OR – As the summer hiring season looms, employers are offering more opportunities for youth-aged workers to earn money and gain work experience than in recent years. In preparation for their early ventures into the working world, young workers should familiarize themselves – and employers should review practices and ensure compliance –with federal labor laws designed to ensure that the experience is rewarding and safe.
In Idaho and Oregon, three recent investigations of grocery store operators by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division led to assessments of more than $240,000 in civil money penalties and the recovery of $114,382 in overtime back wages and liquidated damages for 266 workers. Most penalties were related to child labor violations.
“Summer and seasonal work offers young people a unique opportunity to get valuable workplace experience while earning money, but it should never come at the expense of their education or safety,” said Acting Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman. “Employers who hire youth-aged workers are obligated to comply with federal child labor laws to ensure the experience is safe and beneficial for workers.”
Specifically, the findings of the investigations of the three employers were as follows:
Super 1 Foods, the operator of 16 grocery stores in Idaho, Montana and Washington, permitted minor employees to operate power-driven trash compactors and box balers at its Post Falls, Idaho, location. The employer also allowed 14- and 15-year-old workers to work beyond the number of hours federal law allows. The Post Falls-based employer also did not pay for meal breaks that lasted less than 20 minutes, and failed to include performance bonuses in workers’ required rates of pay when calculating overtime at all of its locations. The division’s investigation led to the recovery of $114,382 in overtime back wages and liquidated damages to 266 employees. The department assessed $154,831 in penalties.
Fred Meyer, a Portland-based subsidiary of Kroger Co., allowed minor-aged workers to regularly load power-driven box balers at stores in The Dalles, Happy Valley and Oregon City. The department cited this employer for similar violations in 2007 and 2008, and assessed $55,440 in penalties for the willful nature of the violations found in the most recent investigation.
Ridley’s Family Markets Inc., an Idaho-based grocery chain allowed minors to operate a power-driver baler and compactor as part of their typical job duties at stores in Gooding, Middleton, Star and Weiser. Investigators also learned that a 16-year-old worker in Middleton suffered a severe cut while loading and operating a baler. Ridley’s operates stores in Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.
In addition to the back overtime wages and assessed penalties, the three employers agreed to implement enhanced measures to ensure future compliance with child labor regulations at all their locations.
“These investigations reinforce the importance of increased compliance with federal child labor laws,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Carrie Aguilar in Portland. “Employers are encouraged to use the many tools offered by the U.S. Department of Labor to understand their obligations and contact the Wage and Hour Division with questions or for clarification to avoid violations and costly penalties.”
From fiscal year 2017-2021, the department identified child labor violations in more than 4,000 cases, finding more than 13,000 minor-aged workers employed in violation.
For more information about young workers’ rights and other laws enforced by the division, contact its toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.