‘We didn’t do this intentionally’: Orem responds to child labor violations

OREM, Utah – Having received thousands of dollars in fines for violating federal child labor regulations, the city of Orem said they were expecting the penalty.

The city said they were contacted by the U.S. Department of Labor last August, expressing its intent to perform an audit on the Orem Scera Park Pools.

The pool, which typically costs visitors $6 for a day of swimming, is now costing the city more than $16,000 in fines.

“We take this very serious, we didn’t want to be in violation, we didn’t do this intentionally,” said Orem city director of recreation Karl Hirst.

The audit looked at 50 pool employees under the age of 16 during the summers of 2017 and 2018.

The city said they knew they were following state law; however, they were not in compliance with federal law – which the audit was based on.

“To be honest with you, we waited patiently, we knew we were going to be getting a penalty,” Hirst said.

The audit found 25 underage (15-year-old) employees who were working more than the allotted three hours and past the 9 p.m. federal cut-off time.

“If they clocked in two minutes ahead or two minutes after, that’s a violation of federal law," Hirst said. "We were also scheduling according to state law, which allowed us to schedule those employees until 9:30, federal law was nine o’clock."

Hearst said he does not believe any of the circumstances would have been in violation of just the state-mandated laws.

“We knew we were following state law, but we weren’t following federal law," he said.

Hirst said the city immediately changed their hiring practices.

“We immediately put safeguards in place so they could not be scheduled for the number of hours that would be in violation," he added. "We looked at every job in the city of Orem to make sure that this would never happen again."

Hirst also said they stopped hiring 15-year-olds as lifeguards – the position that was an issue. They also dropped the shifts for the rest of the 15-year-olds to two hours and 45 minutes to ensure they would not be in violation, should the employees clock in early or clock out late.

“Right now, I think we’re in complete compliance – we check every two weeks,” Hirst said. “We have a system that says, ‘Are we meeting all of these?’ If we’re not, we take immediate action. It’s shown us that we haven’t had any violations since we put them in place.”

The city received a $16,350 fine and Hirst said it has been paid and they just want to move forward.

“We do everything we can to not be here, not be in this light and we thought we were in compliance, but we weren’t,” he said.

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