LONG ISLAND, NY – Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood has announced the guilty plea of Luke Park, owner of the Park Family Farm, for child labor violations related to the death of a 14-year-old boy in July 2015.
Park pleaded guilty in Cortland County Court on September 21st to Endangering the Welfare of a Child, the Failure to Pay a Contribution to the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and the Prohibited Employment of a Minor.
Attorney General Barbara Underwood indicted Park in November 2016, stemming from the July 2015 incident at the Park Family Farm, located in Homer, New York. In the September 21st plea arrangement, Park admitted that Alex Smith, a 14-year-old boy, was killed while working on his dairy 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. Park admitted 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 boy’s chest and abdomen were crushed, resulting in his death by mechanical asphyxiation.
In addition, Park admitted that he 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. Park also admitted that the majority of his employees were paid off-the-books, resulting in an underpayment in Unemployment Insurance Contributions amounting to approximately $10,500.
“Of all the labor violations we see, those against children are some of the most abhorrent. Endangering the welfare of New York’s children by violating the labor laws is absolutely unacceptable,” said NYS Commissioner of Labor Roberta Reardon. “Children are our most valuable asset and compliance with the Child Labor Law is not discretionary – it’s mandatory.”