Manufacturer to Turn Over Profits After Children Found Operating Machinery

The company makes parts for leading outdoor equipment makers.

A manufacturer of components for leading outdoor power equipment manufacturers will be required to turn over some $1.5 million in profits after it employed children illegally and allowed them to operate potentially dangerous machinery. The U.S. Department of Labor said that Tuff Torq employed 10 children — reportedly as young as 14 — that were subjected to “oppressive” child labor at its East Tennessee facility. 

In particular, officials from the agency’s Wage and Hour Division visited the company’s Morristown plant in late January as part of a months-long investigation — at which point they observed a child operating a power-driven hoisting apparatus.

The department this week announced that it had obtained a federal consent judgment levying a nearly $297,000 penalty against Tuff Torq and requiring the company to set aside the $1.5 million amount. The latter provision, officials said, reflects 30 days’ worth of profits related to the child labor violations and would be used to compensate those children.

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The judgment also requires Tuff Torq to implement new staff training, permit unannounced searches for three years’ time, and establish an anonymous tip line for reporting future violations. The Labor Department had also objected to shipments from the facility earlier this year under a “hot goods” provision restricting shipments of products made with child labor.

A spokesman for Tuff Torq parent company Yanmar USA told the Washington Post that the children in question were placed in the factory by a staffing agency on a temporary basis, and that they had used fake names when applying to the agency. The company, he added, is bolstering its training and compliance programs, and is “dedicated” to ensuring its products are made under ethical conditions.

Tuff Torq says it produces hydraulic, mechanical, electric and hybrid drivetrain products for outdoor equipment; the Labor Department says it supplies John Deere, Toro and Yamaha, among other manufacturers.

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