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Citations Vacated in Child Labor Records Dispute


By Sean McLean

The Tennessee Child Labor Act (Act) requires employers of minors to make, keep and preserve a separate and independent file record for each minor employed.  This record must be kept at the location of the minor’s employment.  The Act further provides that the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development (Department) shall be permitted during regular working hours to inspect the contents of the individual file records of each minor employee.

Department inspection
A recent incident occurred when an Inspector with the Department performed a random, unannounced inspection of a Company employing minors.  During the inspection, the Inspector requested that the Company provide him within one hour access to the minor employees’ employment files and time cards pursuant to the Act.  The Company’s Assistant Manager responded to the inspector by stating that while such records were on site, it was the Company’s policy for the Department to contact the Company’s Human Resource Manager in advance to make an appointment to review the records.  The Inspector then issued the Company a citation for (i) failing to maintain records for minor employees, and (ii) failing to furnish such records at the request of the Department.

Judicial review of Department citation
The Company filed a Petition for Judicial Review of the Department’s citation contending that the Department’s decision violated constitutional and statutory provisions and exceeded the agency’s statutory authority.  The Company argued that it did in fact maintain minor employee records as required by the Act.  However, the Department claimed that the Company’s refusal to provide the records created an inference that the records were not kept on site.  The court disagreed with the Department and held that a mere inference that the records were not kept on site was insufficient to support the determination that the Company had violated the Act.  Since no other evidence existed that the Company failed to keep the records as required by the Act, the citation for failing to maintain records was reversed.

Next, the Company argued that the Department’s warrantless inspection was a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.  The court noted that Act is specifically designed to preserve the Fourth Amendment protections by providing the Department with the ability to obtain an administrative inspection warrant when an employer refuses consent to an inspection.  In this case, however, the Department did not pursue a warrant.  As such, the court held that a citation could not be assessed against the Company for refusing to provide the Inspector with access to the requested records within the one hour time allotment.   Absent an administrative inspection warrant, the Company’s refusal to provide the records within one hour was permitted as an assertion of the Company’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Read the case here.

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