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Teenage worker trampled while herding cattle

September 14, 2012
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A Nebraska auction company ran afoul of the child labor laws when one of its teen employees was trampled by a 600 pound calf while herding cattle.

The 15-year-old girl was crushed against a metal gate by a stampeding calf – estimated to weigh between 600 and 700 pounds -- before being knocked to the ground and trampled, resulting in multiple injuries. She was airlifted to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where she remained hospitalized for 40 days.

The U.S. Department of Labor assessed a total of $46,602 in civil money penalties against Valentine Livestock Auction Co.

An investigation by the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division found a total of 26 violations of the FLSA’s child labor provisions, including of occupational standards for allowing five minors to work herding cattle; employing three youths under the legal age of employment; employing minors outside of allowable time standards; and failing to record birth dates for 10 minor employees. Additionally, the division found one violation of Hazardous Occupations Order No. 2, which generally prohibits minors from operating motor vehicles, and three violations of Hazardous Occupations Order No. 5, which prohibits minors from operating power-driven woodworking machines.

“No monetary penalty can undo an injury to a child, but the penalties assessed in this case demonstrate that the Labor Department will use every enforcement tool available to ensure compliance with the regulations we enforce,” said Michael Staebell, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Des Moines Area Office in Iowa, which conducted the investigation.

The company erroneously believed it was classified as an agricultural employer and thus subject to the FLSA’s child labor in agriculture regulations, rather than the regulations pertaining to nonagricultural employers. After the division informed the employer of its status as a nonagricultural employer, the company took steps to comply and to ensure that future violations would not take place. Managers have been trained in child labor regulations, and the company has committed to additional ongoing training. The company also pledged to only allow 14- and 15-year-old employees to perform office work. The civil money penalties assessed have been paid in full.

The FLSA establishes a minimum age of 18 for workers in those nonagricultural occupations that the secretary of labor finds and declares to be particularly hazardous for younger workers. A list of hazardous occupations prohibited for minors is available at http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/docs/haznonag.asp. Additional information on child labor rules can be found at http://www.youthrules.dol.gov/index.htm.

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