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CNN covers apparent FLDS child labor at Utah pecan field

Published December 7, 2012 10:40 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Update: I've done a little more research on this, and it looks like the pecan-picking probably doesn't break Utah labor laws — unless it goes longer than eight hours a day. Agricultural work is exempt from age limits. Take a look at the relevant section of the code here.

Kerry Chlarson, the director of the Utah Labor Commission's Anti-Discrimination and Labor Division, confirmed, "there is no special age limitation or restriction on agricultural work."

The law does prohibit children from working during school hours, but the FLDS home-school their kids and Utah law bars the state from interfering with parental education (see below for more on that issue).

I've got a call into the attorney for the Utah State Board of Education to double-check the legality, and I'll let you know what she says.

There is a provision for not working a minor more than eight hours in a 24-hour hour day, which could apply in this case. A neighbor interviewed for the CNN story said the kids work late into the night.

Original post: A new CNN story shows FLDS children (and some mothers) in a pecan field near Hurricane, apparently working after their school lessons were called off for an entire week to make time for the work.

Watch the report by Gary Tuchman here.

The field is owned by a Las Vegas-based businessman who, perhaps not surprisingly, did not make himself available to answer Tuchman's questions on the apparent child labor. This isn't the first time the sect has been accused of using underage workers (see a 2008 KSL report here). Those allegations, though, were typically against FLDS-owned businesses. In this case, the owner of the field is outside the sect, which would presumably make it easier for authorities to investigate.

I'm not sure anyone is breaking any education laws, through. The FLDS have home-schooled their kids for the last 12 years, and Utah law bars the state from interfering in the way parents choose to educate their kids. (Arizona laws are similar). For more on that issue, take a look at the extensive story I did on home-schooling and the FLDS earlier this year.

What about you, readers? Anyone ever hear of the field owner named in the story, Gene Yamagata?