Owners of a Woodland berry farm were fined $16,000 for employing two children under the age of eleven by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Columbia Fruit LLC was caught using child labor during a weekend investigation June 25, according to agency officials. This is the company’s first violation discovered by the Department of Labor.
“Agricultural employment is particularly dangerous for children, and the rules of their employment must be followed,” said Jeff Genkos, director of the federal Wage and Hour Division’s Portland District Office.
Representatives from Columbia Fruit did not return phone calls for comment.
Under Washington law, restrictions are placed on employees aged 12 to 15. Genkos said child labor violations are not a common occurrence in Southwest Washington. However, two berry farms in Ridgefield were also cited for using underage workers. One of the children at the farms was 6 years old.
The agency is expected to ramp up weekend investigations and prohibit farms from shipping berries that were picked using child labor to curb future violations.
Repeat offenders can face larger monetary penalties, Genkos said.