A U.S. Labor Department investigation into child labor practices on the Eastern Shore and Delaware uncovered violations involving 82 children at 34 businesses.
George Loeblein, assistant district director with the department's Wage and Hour Division in Baltimore, says 27 of the businesses were in Ocean City and the others in Rehoboth Beach, Del. The violations carry possible fines totaling $105,127.
Labor officials say most of the violations involved minors working more hours than the law permits. Only three minors were found to be working in hazardous occupations. Two of those were operating a meat slicer and one was operating a trash compactor.
During the August investigation, 115 Maryland businesses and 12 Delaware businesses were inspected. Of those, 115 were found to have some type of violations of the minimum wage, overtime and child labor laws. Businesses included restaurants, motels, hotels, amusement areas, grocery stores, gas stations and novelty shops.
The investigation was a follow-up of a nationwide campaign last year to uncover child labor law violations, Loeblein says.
Prior to the investigation, Labor Department officials conducted an education campaign to alert business groups in the targeted areas about the child labor laws and new civil penalties now in effect that increase fines from $1,000 to $10,000.
"It is not our intent to prevent minors from working during summer school vacation or off-school hours," says Travis Campbell, district director of the Wage and Hour Division here. "When we do find a violation, we work with the employer to structure the minor's employment hours and occupation to ensure compliance with the law."
Loeblein says the cases against the cited businesses are still pending. They will have the chance to appeal or can pay the fines. The cases should be resolved in about a month, he says.
Under the provision of the federal law, 14- and 15-year-olds may be employed in non-hazardous jobs but for no more than 40 hours a week during a non-school week and not before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. From June 1 through Labor Day, the night hours are extended until 9 o'clock.
Minors age 16 and 17 may work at any time for unlimited hours in all jobs not declared hazardous by the Labor Department.