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Employer Cited for Illegally Employing Children in Tennessee

Employer Cited for Illegally Employing Children in Tennessee Image

by Olivia Wann

Recently, a Tennessee parts supplier for John Deere and Yamaha was fined $296,951 after the Wage and Hour Division confirmed that as many as ten children as young as 14 years old were working in the factory. According to Jessica Looman in a press release, she indicated that even one child working in a dangerous environment is too many. Evidently, there has been an alarming increase in child labor violations where children are in danger. One child was operating a power-driven hoisting apparatus like a forklift. Workers under 18 years old are not permitted to operate dangerous machinery.

The factory claims to have employed a temp agency and does not employ minors. According to Knox News, the factory is required to set aside $1.5 million in profits made during the children’s employment, which will be distributed to these children.[1]

According to the Department of Labor, minors must be at least 14 years old to be employed in non-agricultural workplaces. Certain restrictions apply, such as not working before 7 am or after 7 pm.[2]

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division administers and enforces federal labor laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act sets the minimum age for workers at 14 for non-agricultural jobs, provides restrictions on work hours for children under 16 and prohibits workers under the age of 18 from working in hazardous occupations.

In addition to the federal child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 292(c), and the FLSA regulations at 29 CFR Part 570, employers in Tennessee are subject to Tennessee’s Child Labor Act. Basically, the law is designed to ensure that any work performed by youth does not jeopardize their health and well-being, nor does it affect their educational opportunities.

Working hours for 14- and 15-year-olds in Tennessee while school is in session are no more than 3 hours a day, no earlier than 7:00 am and no later than 7:00 pm, and no more than 18 hours per week. When school is not in session, working hours are no more than 8 hours per day, no earlier than 6:00 am and no later than 9:00 pm, and no more than 40 hours a week.

For 16/17 year olds employed in Tennessee, these youth may not be employed between the hours of 10:00 pm and 6:00 am, Sunday through Thursday, preceding a school day.

Additionally, meal periods for minors in Tennessee are mandatory thirty (3) minute unpaid breaks or meal periods if they are scheduled to work six (6) consecutive hours. Minors are prohibited from working in dangerous jobs such as:[3]

Minors are prohibited from working in dangerous jobs such as:

  • Meat processing and slicing
  • Power-driven saws
  • Power-driven woodworking machinery
  • Roofing
  • Driving
  • Compactors and balers
  • Explosives
  • Forklifts and skid-steers
  • Demolition
  • Mining
  • Logging, forestry and sawmilling
  • Power-drive bakery machines
  • Radioactive material
  • Brick and tile
  • Working with metal
  • Trenching and excavation[4]

You may download the Tennessee child labor poster from this link that outlines the rules: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/workforce/documents/Wage_Poster.pdf

In conclusion, many of us well remember our first job.  Let us make sure that when minors are in our workplace, we are in compliance with the law and we are contributing to a positive experience that inspires our youth.  


[3] https://www.tn.gov/workforce/employees/labor-laws/labor-laws-redirect/child-labor.html

[4] https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/child-labor/what-jobs-are-off-limits

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