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Northwood fires lifeguards after citation for violating child labor laws

  • Kids swim at Northwood Lake Beach on Tuesday, which was short-staffed during the holiday week after five lifeguards lost their jobs due to a citation from the federal Department of Labor against the town of Northwood. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • A bird perches on the sign at Northwood Lake beach on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. There were no lifeguards on the beach for the holiday.



Monitor staff
Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Northwood had to let go of five 15-year-old lifeguards late last month – leaving the town short-staffed on one of the busiest weekends of the year – after the state Department of Labor cited the town for breaking child labor laws.

Teens as young as 15 can work as lifeguards, but only at “traditional swimming pools and water amusement parks,” according to federal regulations. Lifeguards at a “natural environment such as an ocean side beach, lake, pond, river, quarry or pier” must be 16 or older.

The five 15-year-olds worked a total of 31 days at Bow Lake and Northwood Lake this summer, according to a Labor Department inspection report. The town operates three public beaches for residents: Northwood Lake Beach, Mary Waldron and Bennett Bridge.

On Monday, the department sent the town an assessment letter for a $3,100 fine – $100 for each day the teens worked. Rudy Ogden, an attorney for the department, said the assessment takes into account whether the employer has had prior violations of a similar nature, and Northwood apparently did not. The town will have a chance to appeal the fine.

The department initiated the inspection after reviewing routine paperwork the town had filed in connection with its seasonal workers, Ogden said.

Town administrator Joseph Gunter said the teens were immediately let go after the inspection and encouraged to re-apply next summer.

“We did apologize to the families, and we hope that they come back next year,” he said.

The town already has two new lifeguards on duty and is in the process of hiring a third, Gunter said. More are encouraged to apply.

All beaches have remained open. Their hours of operation are 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., but the town advises beachgoers on their website that lifeguards are on duty only “as scheduling permits.”

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)