Federal officials say West Des Moines-based Hy-Vee is paying heavy fines after an investigation found multiple child labor law violations at four of the company’s grocery stores in Nebraska. Jeremy Eggers, spokesman for the U.S. Labor Department, says there was clearly non-compliance in several areas involving Hy-Vee workers under the age of 18.

Eggers says: "The Labor Department essentially fined Hy-Vee just over 32-thousand dollars in what we call civil money penalties. Hy-Vee has since come into compliance. They’ve been very cooperative with the Labor Department." He says the probe found 37 violations of the hours-time standards and six violations of the hazardous orders regulations.

"What this is really about is protecting our youth workforce," Eggers says, "and making it as safe and secure for them as we can." He says some of the violations involved young Hy-Vee workers who were working too many hours or who were working too late at night.

"Minors who are 14 or 15-years-old can work during non-school hours but no later than 7 P.M.," Eggers says. "Many of these violations involved minor employees working past the hours that are specified in the Fair Labor Standards Act."

Investigators say some young Hy-Vee workers were allowed to do tasks that should have been off-limits. Grocery stores contain several pieces of machinery that can be considered hazardous, Eggers says, like meat slicers or paper balers.

"Minors working with this type of equipment can be very dangerous. Statistically, this is where we’re seeing accidents among minor or youth employees. That’s why these orders exist, to protect our youth workforce," Eggers says,

Two of the four Nebraska stores where the violations occurred are in Omaha; the others are in Papillion and Norfolk.