Investigators learned two children younger than 12 worked at a Comfort Inn hotel in Tennessee, federal labor officials said.
A 15-year-old also worked at the hotel in Pigeon Forge doing jobs involving baking and cooking, which is considered dangerous for 14 and 15-year-olds and violates federal labor laws, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor. The law limits the types of cooking tasks teens of that age are allowed to do.
A federal judge ordered Pigeon Forge Hospitality LLC and Nimesh Patel, the Comfort Inn’s operator, to pay a civil money penalty of $21,658 to address the “oppressive child labor practices,” the Department of Labor announced in an April 10 news release.
The child labor violations had been happening at the Comfort Inn since 2021, according to the lawsuit.
McClatchy News attempted to reach Pigeon Forge Hospitality LLC for comment April 11 and did not receive a response.
Investigators also discovered Pigeon Forge Hospitality underpaid six employees working for the Comfort Inn hotel, according to officials.
The company didn’t pay the workers the federal minimum wage rate or for overtime hours, officials said.
As a result, the judge ordered the company to pay an additional $54,592 in back wages and liquidated damages to the six employees, according to officials.
One employee is owed nearly $31,000, court documents show.
“The court’s order successfully ends our effort to recover the rightfully earned wages of Pigeon Forge Hospitality and Nimesh Patel’s employees and end the employers’ oppressive child labor practices,” U.S. Department of Labor Regional Solicitor Tremelle Howard in Atlanta said in the news release.
Pigeon Forge Hospitality LLC is ordered to no longer subject minors to “oppressive child labor conditions,” use an electronic timekeeping system and keep records of changes made to electronic time records, according to the release.