MANCHESTER — The owners of LaBelle Wineries, the Amherst-based venue that has expanded to three locations since its founding as a small backyard operation more than a decade ago, have agreed to pay a $22,800 fine and another $14,000 in back wages to 69 employees to settle labor violations brought by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, officials said Thursday.
The penalties stem from an investigation into child labor law violations at LaBelle’s flagship venue in Amherst and Americus at LaBelle, a restaurant that is part of the company’s Derry location.
Its third venue, on Congress Street in Portsmouth, wasn’t cited.
According to Department of Labor spokesman James Lally, the violations occurred at the Amherst and Derry locations, where 33 employees under age 16 were allowed to work more hours than allowed under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Lally said the company allowed those 33 employees to work “as many as six hours on a school day, nine hours on non-school days, up to 24 hours within one school week and as late as 11 p.m.”
According to FLSA regulations, the minimum age for employment in most non-agricultural occupations is 14 — subject to certain requirements and limitations for youth workers under age 18, Lally said.
Specifically, the child-labor regulations restrict youths under age 16 from working more than three hours on a school day or eight hours on non-school days.
It also restricts those under 16 from working more than 18 hours in one school week or more than 40 hours in a non-school week, Lally added.
Those under 16 cannot start work before 7 a.m. or work later than 7 p.m., except between June 1 and Labor Day, when they can work up to 9 p.m.
The investigation also found that LaBelle required tipped employees to pay for uniforms during their first week of employment, which is a violation of the FLSA’s minimum wage requirements, according to Lally.
LaBelle “also failed to pay overtime to non-exempt employees paid on a salary basis, and paid an incorrect overtime rate to tipped employees, in violation of FLSA overtime provisions,” Lally said, adding that the investigation also found record-keeping violations that led to the recovery of about $14,700 in back wages for 69 employees.
Youth employment regulations serve an important purpose, according to Steven McKinney, the district director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Manchester office.
“The Fair Labor Standards Act’s youth employment regulations exist to ensure youths’ jobs and work hours do not jeopardize their safety, well-being or educational opportunities,” McKinney said in a statement.
“Employers can prevent violations from occurring in the first place if they know, understand and comply with the FLSA’s child labor, wage and record-keeping requirements.
“We urge employers to review their employment practices and contact our office with any questions,” McKinney added.
More information about the FLSA and its enforcement division, contact the agency at 866-4US-WAGE (866-487-9243).
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