Tennessee Company Hired Children to Operate ‘Dangerous’ Machinery, Officials Say

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Tuff Torq Corp. of Morristown, Tenn., must pay a fine of nearly $300,000 and set aside $1.5 million in profits to compensate 10 underage workers, the Labor Department said.

A Tennessee manufacturer has been fined nearly $300,000 for employing children to operate “dangerous machinery” and requiring them to work more hours than the law allows, federal regulators said.

Tuff Torq Corp., which manufactures outdoor-power-equipment components for brands that include John Deere, Toro and Yamaha, must pay a civil penalty of $296,951 and follow federal child labor laws in the future, the Labor Department said in a statement on Monday.

The company must also set aside $1.5 million in profits related to the employment of the 10 children who were found to be working at its factory in Morristown, Tenn. That money, the Labor Department said, “will be used for the benefit of the children employed illegally.” A department spokesman said the children were as young as 14.

The judgment was entered in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee after the Labor Department’s wage and hour division found that Tuff Torq had employed several children to perform dangerous jobs.

Officials began their investigation months ago and obtained “clear evidence” of labor violations in January, when they observed a child operating a power-driven hoisting apparatus, which is prohibited for workers under the age of 18.

“Even one child working in a dangerous environment is too many,” Jessica Looman, the administrator of the wage and hour division, said in the statement. “Over the past year, we have seen an alarming increase in child labor violations, and these violations put children in harm’s way.”

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