Tennessee Manufacturer Fined for Employing Children in Dangerous Conditions

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
March 26, 2024News
Tennessee Manufacturer Fined for Employing Children in Dangerous Conditions
The U.S. Department of Labor Building in Washington on March 26, 2020. (Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images)

The United States Labor Department has fined a Tennessee parts manufacturer nearly $300,000 for employing children.

An investigation found that ten minors were subject to dangerous child labor at Morriston-based Tuff Torq Corporation. The manufacturer produces components of outdoor power equipment for major companies, including John Deere and Yamaha.

The probe first uncovered evidence of child labor during a visit to the facility in January when a child was operating a “power-driven hoisting apparatus,” a job prohibited for workers under the age of 18, according to a statement.

“Even one child working in a dangerous environment is too many,” said Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman.

In addition to a $296,951 civil money penalty, Tuff Torq must also set aside $1.5 million in profits to compensate the affected children.

“With this agreement, we are ensuring Tuff Torq takes immediate and significant steps to stop the illegal employment of children. When employers fail to meet their obligations, we will act swiftly to hold them accountable and protect children,” Ms. Looman said in a statement.

Tuff Torq said that it did not directly hire those individuals but instead went through a temporary workforce staffing agency. They claim the employees then used fake names and credentials during the hiring process.

“Tuff Torq is dedicated to ensuring that their products and services are produced under ethical conditions, with a strong emphasis on fair labor practices, and Tuff Torq is further strengthening our relevant training and compliance programs,” an attorney for the company said.

The case comes amid an increase in child labor violations over the past year.

The Labor Department investigated 955 cases of child labor violations involving 5,792 children nationwide. More than 500 of those children were employed in hazardous occupation standards. As a result, employers were forced to pay $8 million in civil money penalties, according to department figures.

Furthermore, the Labor Department has seen a 69 percent increase in children being employed illegally by companies since 2018.

In February 2023, the department announced it resolved one of the largest child labor cases in its history. Wisconsin-based Packers Sanitation Services paid more than $1.5 million in fines for violating child labor laws after an investigation found that more than 100 children, some as young as 13 years old, worked at several of its meat processing plants in eight states.

“We see everyday the scourge of child labor in this country, and we have a legal and a moral obligation to take every step in our power to prevent it. Too often, companies look the other way and claim that their staffing agency, or their subcontractor or supplier is responsible,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh in a statement last year.

In addition to the fine and compensation for victims, Tuff Torq has also agreed to follow several provisions. This includes allowing unannounced and warrantless searches of its facility for three years. The manufacturer also cannot enter any new contracts with staffing agencies with child labor violations and will require contractors to disclose child labor violations and hiring protocols. Tuff Torq must also provide regular training to staff and establish an anonymous tip line for reporting child labor and other suspected violations.

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.