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Post date: November 30 2016

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Indictment Charging Cortland County Farmer With Child Labor Violations Following Death Of 14 Year-old Employee

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

November 30, 2016

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A.G. Schneiderman Announces Indictment Charging Cortland County Farmer With Child Labor Violations Following Death Of 14 Year-old Employee

Park Family Farm Owner Luke Park Arraigned On Charges Of Child Labor Violations, Endangering Welfare Of A Child, Falsifying Unemployment Contribution Returns

Schneiderman: We Will Fully Prosecute Employers That Place Minors In Harm’s Way

Homer, New York – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arraignment on a 15-count indictment of Luke Park, owner of the Park Family Farm located at or near 3036 East River Road in Homer, New York. Mr. Park was arraigned this afternoon before Judge William F. Ames of the Cortland County Court on 8 felony counts of Falsifying Business Records and Filing False Unemployment Insurance Contribution Returns with the State and 7 misdemeanor counts including Endangering the Welfare of a Child, Illegal Hours of Work for Minors, Prohibited Employment of Minors, and the Willful Failure to Pay Unemployment Insurance Contributions. Mr. Park’s next court date is scheduled for January 13.

“New York law prohibits children from operating heavy and dangerous machinery—for good reason,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Our labor laws exist to protect children who are working from tragic situations like this. My office will prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, any employer that places a minor in harm’s way.”

Mr. Park was indicted on the 15 counts contained in a Felony Complaint filed earlier this summer. That complaint alleged that on July 1st of last year, Alex Smith, a 14 year old boy, was killed while working on the Park Family Farm. The boy was allegedly operating a New Holland LS170 Skidloader with a hydraulic lift and fork attachment, which is explicitly prohibited by child labor laws, in an attempt to prepare bales of hay for cow feed. The complaint further alleged that the defendant, Luke Park admitted to the State Police that he found the boy’s body pinned underneath the hydraulic lift and bale of hay, with the engine of the Skidloader still running. The medical examiner’s autopsy concluded that the chest and abdomen were crushed resulting in his death by mechanical asphyxiation.

"I commend A.G. Schneiderman on his swift response to this terrible tragedy,” said NYS Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “Child labor laws exist so something like this never happens, and those who do not comply must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

In addition, the investigation into the operation of the Park Family Farm revealed that Mr. Park allegedly employed other minors on his dairy farm and required them to work approximately 60 hours a week which exceeds the 48 hour per week maximum for 16 and 17 year olds when school is not in session. The earlier filed Felony Complaint also alleged that many employees were paid off-the-books resulting in an alleged underpayment in Unemployment Insurance Contributions amounting to over $10,000.00.

New York’s Child Labor sets forth some of the strictest guidelines in the country on the employment of minors. The law sets forth safety guidelines with certain absolute prohibitions including the operation of hydraulic lift machinery.  The law also seeks to ensure that burdensome working hours do not interfere with a child’s education. For example, during weeks when school is in session, minors 16- and 17-years-old are limited to working no more than the following hours in most occupations: 28 hours in any week when school is in session and 48 hours per week when on vacation or over the summer. The law also requires that minors obtain an employment certificate (working papers) in order to be employed.  There are exceptions for certain jobs such as babysitting and newspaper carriers.           

The case was investigated by Attorney General Investigator’s Andrea Buttenschon, Mark Rudd, and Deputy Chief Investigator Jonathan Wood. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney Generals Mark Sweeney and James Shoemaker of the Binghamton Regional Office, with the assistance of Labor Bureau Criminal Section Chief Richard Balletta and Stephanie Swenton, the Deputy Bureau Chief of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau.  The case is being supervised by Bureau Chief of the Labor Bureau Terri Gerstein, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Offices Martin J. Mack.

The charges contained in the complaint and the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.