HOMER – 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 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.
“A 14-year-old child should never have been operating heavy and dangerous machinery,” 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 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 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.
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 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.