Local News

Farms fined for using child laborers

Posted August 10, 2009 4:21 p.m. EDT

— The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division has fined nine farms and 17 farm labor contractors that do business in Bladen and Craven counties for violating federal labor law, including employing children as young as 8 as farm laborers, officials said Monday.

Blueberry Hill Farms, Carter Farms, Morris Bros. Blueberry Farms, Nelson's Blueberry Farm and Thomas Milton Smith were found to have employed underage workers. Two of the 17 farm labor contractors, Macendonio Hernandez and Jesus Moto Serrano, were also cited for child labor violations.

Other employer violations include failure to disclose terms and conditions of employment as required by federal law, record-keeping violations and violations of the federal minimum-wage law. Fines totaling $31,445 were assessed against the 26 employers, and they were ordered to pay $40,010 in back wages owed to 428 farm workers.

"Agricultural employment is particularly dangerous for children, and the rules for their employment must be followed," Richard Blaylock, district director of the Wage and Hour Division in Raleigh, said in a statement.

Under federal law, youths ages 16 and above may work in any farm job at any time, and youths of any age may work at any time in any job on a farm owned or operated by their parents. Youths aged 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in jobs not declared hazardous by Labor Department officials. There are special requirements for employing youths under age 14.