CLARKSBURG, TN – When the owners of a Clarksburg supermarket allowed two 16-year-old employees to clean a meat grinder, disaster soon struck. As one boy reached inside the machine, the grinder started and amputated the teenager’s right forearm.
A U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation that followed the tragic incident found the owners of Clarksburg Supermarket – Terry Altom and Kenneth Lovell – violated a federal child labor law. The child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act ban employers from employing minors under age 18 to operate power-driven meat processing machines, such as slicers, saws and meat choppers. The ban also prohibits minors from cleaning the equipment and its parts, whether assembled or disassembled.
The division assessed a $65,289 penalty to Altom and Lovell under the Child Labor Enhanced Penalty Program.
“Protecting our youngest workers and keeping them safe in the workplace is one of the department’s top priorities,” said Wage and Hour Division Acting District Director Pamela Sullivan, in Nashville, Tennessee. “The severe injury suffered by this minor is a reminder of what can happen when children are permitted to operate hazardous equipment in violation of the law. Employers have an obligation to ensure minors are not performing tasks that could be harmful, which is why these child labor rules were established. A young man’s life is forever and tragically changed because that did not happen in the case.”
In a similar case in Georgia, another minor-aged supermarket worker was also injured.
The Wage and Hour Division investigation followed citations issued by the Tennessee Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In addition to the child labor violations, the Wage and Hour Division also found the employer failed to pay overtime to one worker who worked more than 40 hours in a workweek, another violation of the FLSA. The employer paid $5,107 in back wages to the employee to resolve this issue.
For more information about the FLSA 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.