Companies fined after teens get injured on the job

9 months ago

Two Aroostook County companies will have to pay fines for labor violations after three teens were hurt while doing jobs adults were supposed to do. 

Young workers were injured at TD Logging in Fort Kent during a vehicle accident and at Arby’s in Presque Isle when a teen used a meat slicer.

A teen also amputated a finger while using a wood splitter at Maloy’s Yard Care in Lisbon Falls.

The Maine Department of Labor reported violations from 11 Maine companies Tuesday. Most involved letting teens work outside allowable hours for their age. The Aroostook and Lisbon Falls cases involved injuries to teens who were doing hazardous jobs reserved for adults.

Child labor violations are up across the state, according to the Maine Department of Labor. It’s a trend spurred in part by worker shortages. Unable to find enough staff, companies are hiring more young people to fill in the gaps.

Most employers comply with restrictions to protect teens, according to Michael Roland, director of the department’s Bureau of Labor Standards. 

“However, we have also been observing a marked increase in the numbers of work permits denied, violations of child-protective labor laws, and most disturbingly, in reported injuries to minors in Maine’s workplaces,” Roland said in a statement Tuesday.

Reports of teens being hurt on the job have doubled in the past 10 years, department officials said.

At Arby’s, a 17-year-old was injured while using a meat slicer on Aug. 8, 2022, said Scott Cotnoir, director of the Wage and Hour Division of the Maine Department of Labor, in a letter to manager Michael Collins.

The letter cited $51,500 in penalties for 208 violations involving work permits and restricted hours. 

In a compromise agreement between Arby’s and the Bureau of Labor Standards, the restaurant admitted to 53 violations. Fines were reduced to $13,250. The department suspended $9,938 of that if the company complied with terms including access to records for two years and employee training, and had no more violations. The company agreed to pay $3,313 in fines.

At Fort Kent’s TD Logging, a 16-year-old drove a company truck on Aug. 11, 2022, and was hurt when the vehicle crashed. A worker who was 15 and turned 16 while working also operated hazardous logging machinery, Cotnoir said in a letter to TD owner Travis Dionne.

Cotnoir cited 57 violations in total. Other violations involved restricted hours and penalties of $17,375. In its settlement agreement, the department suspended $13,031 if the company complied with terms including access to records for two years and employee training, and had no more violations. The company agreed to pay $4,344 in fines.

Collins said he had no comment on the agreement. Representatives for TD Logging could not be reached.

The injury at Maloy’s Yard Care in Lisbon Falls happened on July 29, 2022, when a teen cut off his right index finger while using a wood splitter, according to Cotnoir’s letter to company owner Patrick Maloy. 

Other violations involved restricted youth hours and payment records. The department of labor lists no settlement agreement.

Maine’s labor laws for minors contain exceptions, but in general, those under 16 cannot drive or operate hazardous power-driven machinery. Those 16 and 17 years old cannot drive on public roads or operate most power-driven machinery, including meat slicers and excavation equipment. 

These Maine companies agreed to pay penalties as noted, according to the Department of Labor:

  • — Becky’s Diner, Portland, 259 violations including work permits, minors under 14 and restricted hours, assessed $64,750, $58,275 suspended, total payment $6,475.
  • — Corey & Then, PA, South Portland, 299 violations including timely payment of wages and overtime, assessed $26,950, $17,950 suspended, payment of back wages and penalties of $9,000.
  • — Hidden Cove Brewing, Wells, approximately 3,370 violations including overtime and timely and full payment of wages, $125,000 in damages and outstanding wages.
  • — Junction Bowl, Gorham, 203 violations including restricted hours for minors and work permits, assessed $50,750, $45,675 suspended, total payment $5,075.

The following were assessed penalties, but no settlement agreement was specified.

  • — Friendly Discount, Westbrook was cited for two violations including minors under 14 and hours, with penalties of $500. No settlement agreement was specified.
  • — GIRI Hotel (Comfort Inn), Augusta, two violations of timely payment of wages, payment of back wages and $200 in penalties.
  • — Pine Tree Solar, Orland and Surry, 21 violations including timely payment, minimum wage and overtime, $3,700 in penalties.
  • — State Energy Partners, Exeter, Enfield, Sanford and Trenton, 105 violations including timely payment, minimum wage and overtime, $19,050 in penalties.