Contractor had 11-year-old groundskeeper using ‘dangerous’ equipment, feds say

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·2 min read

A construction contractor is accused of employing an 11-year-old child as a groundskeeper, letting them use “dangerous” equipment while working more than eight hours a day in Tennessee, federal labor officials say.

Concept Construction, based in Cleveland, was fined more than $389,000 for child labor and wage violations, including denying 62 construction workers overtime pay, according to an Aug. 3 news release from the Department of Labor.

The contractor’s “decision to allow an 11-year-old child to operate a farm-style tractor and weed-eating equipment is hard to understand,” said Lisa Kelly, the department’s Wage and Hour Division director in Nashville, in a statement.

“Laws to prevent such actions exist to prevent life-changing injuries or worse from occurring and this employer has learned there are costly consequences to bear.”

McClatchy News contacted Concept Construction for comment on Aug. 4.

For jeopardizing the safety of the child and having them work more hours daily than an average Tennessee school day, which is roughly seven hours, the contractor was fined $14,944 in civil penalties, according to the Wage and Hour Division.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers must be at least 16 years old to take on any agricultural jobs deemed hazardous for those under that age.

Children do get injured, even killed, in the workplace,” the agency said online. Each year, it is estimated that 160,000 children in the U.S. are injured on the job, including 54,800 injuries that are serious.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department fined Concept Construction $374,493 to recover wages and damages for dozens of workers who were not paid overtime wages as owed under federal law, the agency said.

This includes how the contractor is accused of paying some construction workers $7.25, the federal minimum wage, and giving them bonuses “to make up the difference between the minimum wage and a previously agreed-upon rate of pay,” according to the release.

The Labor Department “is committed to holding these employers accountable for their actions – in error or by design,” Kelly said.

Cleveland is roughly 165 miles southeast of Nashville.

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