Child Labor Law Violations Found

Article excerpt

ST. AUGUSTINE -- Some of St. Augustine's most popular eateries have been charged with violations of federal child labor laws, including one where a 17-year-old girl was cut by a meat slicer she should not have been operating.

Six restaurants in the city were charged after investigators reviewed restaurant records late last year. Five of the restaurants were fined a total of $28,195, though the largest fine was later reduced.

The charges came after investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor's Jacksonville office visited Gypsy Cab Co. Restaurant, The Raintree Restaurant, A1A Ale Works, Capt. Jack's Restaurant, Saltwater Cowboy's and Fiddler's Green Restaurant in November and December.

The Raintree Restaurant was cited but not fined.

James Breidenstein, district director of the department's Wage and Hour Division in Jacksonville, said that in most cases, investigators found minors were working later, or for more hours, than permitted by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

"We checked 15 restaurants; we found violations at six," Breidenstein said.

Generally, child labor laws allow teens 16 and 17 to work unlimited hours in jobs or at tasks not considered dangerous or hazardous. Youths 14 and 15 can work only limited numbers of hours and types of jobs are more restricted.

At Gypsy Cab Co., investigators found that a 17-year-old girl had cut herself in February 1998. According to labor laws, children under 18 are not permitted to operate certain power-driven machinery.

He said the fact that the girl was operating the slicer and that she was injured constituted two violations.

The restaurant was fined $21,850, but the fine was reduced to $9,800.

Breidenstein would not say why the Gypsy Cab fine was reduced but said sometimes those fines are negotiated.

"Sometimes people will argue the kid never used the meat slicing machine or never worked the hours," he said.

Ned Pollack, owner of the restaurant, said he it is his practice not to allow minors to operate equipment like slicers.

"That is ... my rule," he said. "It just happened."

Pollack said of 60 employees at the restaurant, fewer than a dozen are minors. He said he prefers not to hire minors and that most younger workers at the restaurant are related to other employees. …

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