Labor Dept. eyes grocery stores

Labor Dept. eyes grocery stores

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Grocery stores in Winnebago County may be under the scrutiny of the U.S. Labor Department. The issue is compliance with federal minimum wage, overtime and child labor laws.

The investigation is aimed at enforcement where indicated. Dennis McInerney, wage and hour district director in Chicago, said: “This initiative will help protect vulnerable, young workers in Winnebago County and will educate employers on the requirements of the law.”

The department did a similar check of the grocery industry last year. They found younger workers in this industry have a high incidence of injury. This year’s investigation is a follow up to the previous one.

Federal law states workers under 18 years old may not be employed in certain occupations that the Secretary of Labor has declared to be hazardous. These include operating meat slicers, paper balers and some types of driving.

Workers who are 14 and 15 years old may be hired as office workers, price markers, cashiers, baggers and other jobs, but they only may work outside school hours and for limited periods. Those under 14 years old may not work in the retail field.

Child labor laws spell out the hours that those under 16 may work and specify hazardous occupations barred to anyone under the age of 18.

The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1998. It states 17-year-olds may occasionally drive cars and light trucks for an employer during daylight, providing they have a valid state license for the kind of driving performed.

Such drivers also must complete a state-approved driver education course and have a clean driving record. The law also bars towing vehicles, route deliveries and some other kinds of driving. Those under age 17 may not drive as part of their employment.

Federal law permits 14- and 15-year-olds to work outside school hours, but no later than 7 p.m., or until 9 p.m. during the summer. They may not start earlier than 7 a.m. They also are limited to working no more than 18 hours a week. They are allowed to work up to eight hours on non-school days, or 40 hours in non-school weeks.

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