The number of Maine teens injured in the workplace has more than doubled over the last 10 years, with three separate investigations of serious injuries concluding this summer, the Maine Department of Labor said Tuesday.

At the same time, the overall number of violations involving youth workers also has increased, the department said, with the majority of incidents resulting from employing youth workers without a work permit, working outside of the hourly restrictions for their age and working in hazardous occupations not allowed under the law. The rise seems to be linked to increasing numbers of businesses relying more on teen workers because of Maine’s tight labor market.

Last year, there were 325 injury claims filed for workers between 14 and 17 years old, up from 162 in 2012. 

• In July 2022, a minor amputated his right index finger while operating a wood splitter at Maloy’s Yard Care in Lisbon Falls, the department said in a citation filed in May. The company also faced 11 other citations related to minors working without work permits, working outside of their restricted hours and working during the school day. Maloy’s Yard Care paid the department $3,400 in fines.

• At TD Logging in Fort Kent, a 16-year-old driving a company truck was hurt in a vehicle accident at 4 a.m. in August 2022, and a 15-year-old was allowed to use a piece of logging equipment, a forwarder, roughly two dozen times between late June and mid-August last summer, the department said. Another 32 violations for restricted hours and recorded hours were filed against the logging company. TD Logging faced over $17,000 in fines but settled with the state and will pay $4,343, provided it does not violate any other labor laws for two years.

• In Presque-Isle, a 17-year-old was injured using a meat slicer at Arby’s. The injury was included among 52 other violations related to restricted hours and work permits. Wilcox Dawson Wilcox Inc., doing business as Arby’s, settled for $3,312, provided it stays clean for two years, rather than pay the $13,250 fine.


The proprietors of the logging company and the lawn company could not be reached to discuss the violations after work hours Tuesday. The owner of the Arby’s franchise declined to answer a reporter’s questions.


While most businesses follow the state and federal restrictions for employing minors, Michael Roland, director of the Maine Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Standards, said in a statement that the agency is seeing an increase in the number of work permits denied, the number of violations of child-protective labor laws and reported injuries to minors in the workplace.

The department places the blame partly on the tight labor market, noting a 75% increase in the number of minor work permit applications between 2017 and 2022.

“Employers in Maine and throughout the country are experiencing a tight labor market, and as a result are relying more heavily on younger workers to meet their workforce needs,” the agency said in a statement.

Jessica Picard, department spokesperson, would not speculate on how the increase in hiring young workers correlated with hiring underage workers or violating labor laws but said the department is always a resource for employers who may have questions.


“The department would rather work with employers to ensure they are in compliance and provide them with support and information in order to prevent violations from happening in the first place,” she said in an email.

So far this year, the department has received 4,700 work permit applications.

The increase in violations of child labor laws comes amid a push from lawmakers in other states to loosen the rules.

Legislators in at least 10 states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa, have proposed legislation to let children work in more hazardous jobs, for longer hours and in expanded roles, including serving alcohol in bars and restaurants as young as 14, The Associated Press reported.

Former Gov. Paul LePage also supported rolling back some child labor laws as a way to boost the workforce, saying that children should be able to work when they are 12 years old. A 2011 law extended the hours teens could work, and legislation passed in 2017  allowed youths to work in previously prohibited positions in bakeries and hotels and do hazardous work with proper training. The law also streamlined the process to get a work permit for 14- and 15-year-olds.

Most Maine labor violations are administrative in nature – violations of allowable working hours or wages – and don’t result in injuries. But those violations can still carry hefty fines.


Becky’s Diner in Portland was hit with 259 violations last year, including several for allowing two 13-year-olds to work. The diner paid the department $64,750.

Zack Rand, general manager of Becky’s, said the infractions stemmed from a misunderstanding.

Two of the eponymous Becky Rand’s 13-year-old grandchildren wanted to work at her restaurant and, being family, they were under the assumption that it was permitted. But the law requires that the minor be a child of the business owner, not a grandchild.

Every time each teen worked was a violation, which added up over a busy summer.

“All of Becky’s children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews have grown up working for the business. Not familiarizing ourselves with the state guidelines in that regard was an honest mistake on our part,” Rand said. “We have obviously had the same staffing struggles that many in the hospitality industry have faced and that contributed to our violations.”

Rand said they have taken compliance classes and corrected the practice.

Junction Bowl in Gorham also was cited for allowing minors to work restricted hours and faced more than $50,000 in fines for 203 violations. The business settled with the state and will only pay $5,075 as long as it follows the rules for two years.

Messages left for the bowling alley were not returned Tuesday evening.

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