(KCPW News) An Orem-based market research company, Western Wats Center, has been slapped with a $552,750 fine from the Department of Labor. After a two-year investigation, the department alleges the company was employing nearly 1,500 fourteen and fifteen-year-olds in violation of federal time standards. Lee Ann Dunbar is director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Salt Lake City Office.
“During elections, they do polling. That is when the bulk of the violations were discovered. At any given time they had employed roughly 1,250 interviewers, and we found that many of them were minors,” she told KCPW.
The minors were allegedly working as interviewers at the company’s phone centers in Orem, Logan, Spanish Fork, and six other states. The investigation also found three thirteen-year-olds working for the company, which is illegal under any circumstances. Western Wats Center issued a statement saying it “vehemently denies the extent and severity of the claimed violations.” But it acknowledges the possibility that there were technical violations. The company is appealing the Department of Labor’s decision.