A Tennessee manufacturer of outdoor power equipment components has been fined $296,951 related to its use of child labor and must set aside $1.5 million to benefit children it employed illegally. Tuff Torq Corp. — which produces components for such companies as John Deere, Toro and Yamaha has also been ordered to stop employing children illegally.  

According to the US Department of Labor, investigators from its Wage and Hour Division began its probe months ago but obtained clear evidence of the unlawful conduct on Jan. 23, when they returned to the Tuff Torq facility in Morristown, Tennessee, and observed a child operating a power-driven hoisting apparatus, an occupation prohibited for workers under the age of 18. As a result, the department objected to the shipment of goods from the Morristown facility, citing the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “hot goods” provision, which prevents employers from shipping goods produced by oppressive child labor. 

To date, the department has determined that Tuff Torq subjected 10 children to oppressive child labor. 

According to a New York Times article, Tuff Torq said in a statement that the children had been hired by a “temporary workforce staffing agency,” which it did not identify.  

The $1.5 million fund represents 30 days’ profit for the company and will be used for the benefit of the children employed illegally, according to the DOL. “Even one child working in a dangerous environment is too many,” Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman said in a press release. “Over the past year, we have seen an alarming increase in child labor violations, and these violations put children in harm’s way. 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.” 

In addition to an agreement to comply with the child labor provisions of the FLSA, payment of the full civil money penalty and disgorgement of profits, Tuff Torq has agreed, among other provisions, to: 

  • Contract with a community-based organization to provide regular training to staff, managers and contractors. 
  • Establish an anonymous tip line for reporting child labor and other suspected FLSA violations. 
  • Allow unannounced and warrantless searches of its facility to three years. 
  • Refrain from entering any new contracts with staffing agencies or other contractors with child labor violations and require contractors to disclose child labor violations and hiring protocols.