Education

Belen Jesuit ordered to pay over $680,000 after violating wage and child labor laws

Belen Jesuit Preparatory School owes summer camp employees $635,269 in back pay and has to pay $47,578 in civil penalties for violating child labor laws because of how it used 14- and 15-year-old camp counselors. Belen says it’ll fight the fine.
Belen Jesuit Preparatory School owes summer camp employees $635,269 in back pay and has to pay $47,578 in civil penalties for violating child labor laws because of how it used 14- and 15-year-old camp counselors. Belen says it’ll fight the fine. File

Labor laws don’t go on summer break, which is why Belen Jesuit Preparatory School not only owes 461 summer camp employees $635,269 in back pay, but also got fined $47,578 for violating child labor laws.

The Department of Labor, which announced the violations and penalties Friday, said the problems occurred from July 2015 through July 2017.

In a Friday night statement e-mailed to the Miami Herald, Belen president Father Guillermo García-Tuñón said the school won’t fight the payment of wages, but does plan to fight the fine.

According to the Department of Labor, Belen’s summer camp worked 97 counselors aged 14 or 15 more than 40 hours per week each. Even when school is out, federal law slaps a 40-hour ceiling on work hours for that age group.

“As with most school-based summer camps in Florida, Belen believes that its summer camp qualifies under the Section 13(a)(3) recreational exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which exempts summer camp counselors from certain wage and overtime requirements,” García-Tuñón’s e-mail said. “The Department of Labor notified the School that it considered the Section 13(a)(3) exemption did not apply to the school’s summer camp counselors.”

After considering all summer camp counselors “exempt” from federal overtime and minimum wage laws, Belen paid them straight salaries no matter how many hours they actually worked. But if they aren’t “exempt,” which is the Department of Labor’s position, Belen got overtime work without ponying up overtime pay.

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“The school also required summer counselors to attend 16 hours of unpaid training prior to the start of camp, resulting in minimum wage violations for those unpaid hours,” the Department of Labor said. “Summer counselors did not clock in or out for work or lunch breaks and were required to attend an additional 30-to-45-minute weekly meeting, which was also not reflected in time records.”

“The well-being of minors in the workplace remains a priority for the Wage and Hour Division,” said Tony Pham, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division District Director in Miami. “We appreciate this employer’s cooperation in working with us to correct these violations and come into compliance.”

Church pastor and businessman John McCollum, 67, of Godwin, NC allegedly had children as young as nine years old work for little or no pay.

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