Eight stores operating at The Mills at Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth, N.J., were found to be in violation of federal child labor requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) after an investigation by the Department of Labor‘s Wage and Hour Division (WHD).
The violations involved allowing underage employees to operate and unload potentially dangerous paper baling and cardboard compacting machines, the agency said. Penalties for the retailers could total a combined $40,667 in fines.
The violating merchants include shoe stores Aldo, Puma, Journeys and Skechers; apparel retailers Papaya Clothing and Against All Odds, and food shops Cold Stone Creamery and Johnny Rockets.
WHD investigators found the retailers violated FLSA requirements when they allowed 16- and 17-year-old employees to use the machines to discard scrap paper and flatten cardboard boxes. The law prohibits use of such equipment by any employees under 18.
“All of these retailers have policies in place that aim to ensure compliance with child labor standards,” said WHD district director John Warner. “The number of violations we found demonstrates why employers must remain vigilant and even more closely supervise minors they employ. Child labor laws ensure young employees gain a positive work experience that does not interfere with their education, health or well-being.”
In addition to paying the assessed penalties, the retailers have each agreed to ensure future compliance by implementing at least one of several policies, including training management and staff on federal child labor requirements, mounting signs prohibiting employees under the age of 18 years from using designated equipment, highlighting the names of minors on work schedules to increase managers’ awareness and changing store policy to ensure minors do not take out the trash as part of their job duties.