Several Department of Labor investigations of Wal-Mart stores in Connecticut, Arkansas and New Hampshire revealed that the retailer employed 85 minors ages 16 and 17 who performed prohibited activities, including loading and occasionally operating or unloading scrap paper balers and operating fork lifts, according to the Department of Labor.

The Department of Labor issued the penalties to Wal-Mart for violating the youth employment provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits the employment of minors under age 18 in any occupation determined hazardous by the agency. The department says it has issued 17 specific hazardous occupation orders to Wal-Mart identifying these prohibited occupations.

While not admitting the violations, Wal-Mart cooperated with the department and guaranteed full compliance with the youth employment provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act in the future, according to the Department of Labor.

"A young person's early work experience should be positive and educational and should never jeopardize their health and well-being," said Victoria Lipnic, assistant secretary for the department's Employment Standards Administration. "Wal-Mart has signed an agreement with the department and committed to take specific measures to ensure that all its stores are in compliance with youth employment laws in the future."

As part of the compliance agreement, Wal-Mart will:

  • Designate a corporate official to supervise compliance with the agreement;
  • Provide new and current store managers with training on child labor law compliance;
  • Include child labor compliance reviews in its regular internal audits; and
  • Post warning signs, supplied by the Department of Labor, on all company-owned hazardous equipment indicating the age restriction on their use.

This compliance agreement is significant because Wal-Mart has agreed to implement these practices in all of its Wal-Mart Stores and Supercenters, according to the Department of Labor. Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has approximately 3,000 stores.

A phone call placed to Wal-Mart's media relations department was not immediately returned.

For more information on the youth employment provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, visit the department's YouthRules! Web site at http://www.youthrules.dol.gov. Additional information can also be obtained by calling the Department of Labor's toll-free help line at (866) 4USWAGE.