Children learning the family business from their parents—it’s an American tradition. Or is it? The Connecticut Department of Labor just told a couple that having their own children help around their restaurant is a violation of state child labor laws.
The Nuzzo brothers learned the pizza business from their parents, who ran an Italian restaurant in New Haven, Connecticut for over 40 years, by helping out around the restaurant. All three brothers now own their own restaurants in the area. Michael Nuzzo and his wife wanted to continue the family tradition, so they brought their kids in to observe and “help out” on Friday nights and weekends at their pizzeria.
However, someone called in an anonymous tip to the CTDOL reporting the situation as child labor. The agency sent an investigator from the Wage and Workplace Division to check it out, who then told the father and mother that their children can’t be there because at ages 13, 11, and 8, they are too young to obtain working papers.
Now the couple is suing the acting commissioner of labor to dismiss the violation, stating the children “watch, learn, and assist” their parents, but don’t “work” because are not paid wages. The suit also said the children do not operate machinery or use the ovens.
According to a report by WFSB Hartford, mother Migdalio Nuzzo said “We're not slave drivers. We’re just teaching them what we know.” And father Michael Nuzzo expressed shock at the action by stating “They are attacking my tradition, my culture. Being Italian, this is how we were raised.” p>
The Nuzzo’s lawyer is a frequent patron of the restaurant. The lawsuit filed in federal court, reports Courthouse News Service, claims that enforcing Connecticut child labor law against the Nuzzos as parents would “violate their Constitutional rights to ‘liberty, privacy, due process, family integrity, equal protection of the law’” … and other “privileges and immunities enjoyed by citizens of the United States and the State of Connecticut.” The Nuzzos are not asking for damages, just that they be allowed to have their children “assist” in the restaurant.
The CTDOL has referred the matter to State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (recently in the news himself), who said his office would look into the allegations, but that no enforcement action has been taken.
As for the children, they told the TV station that they like to help at the restaurant.
Courthouse News Service