DOL Resolves Case with Utah-based Firm for Child Labor Violations

Western Wats Center Inc., a market research company based in Orem, Utah, with locations throughout Utah and six other states, has paid $500,000 in civil money penalties following a U.S. Department of Labor investigation that disclosed violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's child labor regulations.

"This investigation reflects the Labor Department's ongoing effort to enforce workplace protections that promote the safety and well-being of young workers," said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division, who is located in Dallas. "By complying with these provisions, employers can help working teens enjoy safe, positive, early work experiences that can be so important to their career and personal development."

A resolution of this case was reached after the Wage and Hour Division district office in Salt Lake City assessed a penalty in August 2009 for the company's employment of 1,482 minors contrary to the FLSA's child labor hours and time standards. With the exception of three 13-year-olds, the minors were 14 and 15 years of age and primarily employed as interviewers at the company's phone centers in Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Idaho.

As part of its effort to achieve future compliance with the FLSA's provisions, Western Wats initiated new timecard and payroll systems as well as new training programs and hiring practices. The company also hired independent legal and accounting firms to review its employment practices.

The FLSA's child labor provisions are designed to protect young workers by limiting the types of jobs they may perform and the number of hours they may work. Individuals under 14 years of age may not be employed in non-agricultural occupations covered by the FLSA. Those 14 and 15 years of age may be employed outside of school hours in a variety of non-manufacturing and non-hazardous jobs for limited periods of time and under specified conditions. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds may be employed for unlimited hours in any occupation other than those declared hazardous by the secretary of labor.

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