A Comfort Inn hotel in Tennessee employed 2 children under the age of 12, the labor department says

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  • A hotel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, employed two children under the age of 12, the DOL said.

  • The operators of the Comfort Inn hotel also paid some workers below the minimum wage, it said.

  • One worker is set to receive almost $31,000 in back pay and liquidated damages.

A hotel operator in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, employed two children under the age of 12, according to the US Department of Labor.

Pigeon Forge Hospitality and Nimesh Patel, the operator of a Comfort Inn, were accused of a number of labor-law violations by the DOL in a lawsuit filed in January in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

The company paid some workers less than the minimum wage and failed to pay overtime rates, the department said.

The DOL said in the lawsuit that since at least March 2021, Pigeon Forge Hospitality had employed "oppressive child labor" by hiring two minors under the age of 12. It had also employed a 15-year-old to perform baking and cooking activities that weren't allowed for their age group.

In addition, starting in at least June 2019, Pigeon Forge Hospitality had failed to pay its employees the correct minimum hourly rate and hadn't paid them the one-and-a-half times rate for working more than 40 hours in one work week, the DOL said in the lawsuit. It added that the company had also failed to keep adequate records of its employees and their wages and hours.

The lawsuit doesn't state the name of the hotel, but the DOL press release said that Pigeon Forge Hospitality and Patel operated a Comfort Inn hotel in the city.

In a consent order signed April 6, District Judge Clifton L. Corker ordered Pigeon Forge Hospitality and Patel to pay $27,296 in back wages to six affected staff, the same amount in liquidated damages, and a civil money penalty of $21,658.

One worker is set to receive a total of $30,906 and another $21,170, filings show.

The judge also issued a permanent injunction ordering the company to abide by minimum wage and overtime laws, keep accurate records, and follow child-labor regulations.

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