It's hard to find help these days. Not because people don't want to work. That myth has thoroughly been busted. But rather companies don't want to pay living wages to their employees, which often leads them to acquire gig workers—non-employees who don't get benefits or competitive salaries. 

Yet, even those are sometimes too expensive for companies and their precious executive bonuses. So in those instances, they do the most logical thing around. They hire children. Or rather, they don't hire children...wink, wink. Until they get caught.

That's the case with Tuff Torq, a parts supplier that works with John Deere, Toro, and motorcycle manufacturer Yamaha. And all of this is coming out as, I don't know if you know this, but child labor is still quite illegal and the Department of Labor tends to take issue with companies trying to pull a fast one. 

According to The Knoxville News Sentinel, Tuff Torq Corporation was found to be employing children as young as 14 using "power-driven hoisting apparatus", i.e. a forklift, even though according to statutes, "Workers under 18 are prohibited from operating this type of machinery." 

The story went on to convey that the DoL found that 10 underage children were working for the company and noted that it's seen a trend of more and more violations of such labor laws in recent years. The company was fined $296,961 for those violations but was also forced to set aside $1.5 million in profits that will go to those 10 children for the work they did during their tenure.

That comes out to a nice $150,000 a piece, which should just pay for college. Maybe.

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When The Knoxville News Sentinel reached out to Tuff Torq Corp's parent company, Yanmar Group, the company stated "Tuff Torq did not directly hire and employ the individuals" saying that they were from a "temporary workforce staffing agency."

A Yanmar representative also stated that "Tuff Torq is dedicated to ensuring that their products and services are produced under ethical conditions, with a strong emphasis on fair labor practices, and Tuff Torq is further strengthening our relevant training and compliance programs. We are also actively engaging with our suppliers to reinforce our expectations regarding ethical labor practices and collaborate with them on implementing our updated policies."

As for Yamaha, the company told ATV Rider, "Upholding ethical labor practices is paramount to Yamaha. It is also essential [that] Yamaha’s supply chain reflects our values of integrity, respect, and fairness, and we will continue to work diligently to uphold these principles in all aspects of our business operations.”

The ruling against Tuff Torq also required the company to create an anonymous tip line to report child labor and other Fair Labor Standards Act violations, let investigators from the DoL perform unplanned and warrantless searches of the company for three years, not work with staffing companies with child labor violations, and require contractors to disclose any violations as well as hiring practices before signing any sort of contract with them. 

As mentioned, there's been a creeping swell of child labor violations throughout the country recently, as inflation has risen, labor laws tested, states reducing labor age laws, and more and more families needing help to provide food on tables. Those aren't justifications, though, as we have child labor laws for very specific reasons

But it's good to see the DoL going after companies like Tuff Torq and holding its feet to the fire for such lapses in protocols. 

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