Everyone’s heard the term “buyer beware.”
Who knew you’d also have to learn “workers beware”?
Georgia’s Department of Labor has opened an investigation into “Terror Town,” a Halloween haunted house, because of complaints from the mostly teens serving as scare-mongers who say they weren’t paid.
The Las Vegas-based owner, who says he stayed hands-off from the day-to-day operation of the Martinez attraction, insists all the kids were told up front that they were volunteers. They even signed forms saying so, he adds.
The teens, who gathered recently with some of their parents to form a plan of action, counter that they were told they’d be paid. In fact, the “release” forms they signed – the ones in which they agreed to be volunteers – also made vague, conditional promises of compensation.
That part of the dispute likely will require court intervention, and one of the moms says she’s hired a lawyer.
There appears, however, to be much more for state and, perhaps, federal labor officials to look at.
• The kids working for Terror Town signed two forms: An acknowledgement that they were working as volunteers; and a liability release form. Any two-bit contract attorney will tell you that someone younger than 18 can’t be held to the terms of a contract. In addition, these amateurish forms didn’t even include a space for a representative of Terror Town to sign. A one-party contract isn’t a contract at all.
• More troubling, though, is that liability release form, which warns workers that Terror Town is a dangerous place to work, and that their efforts might subject them to injury or even death.
It is flat-out illegal to allow minors to work in a dangerous environment; that’s why they can’t even operate a meat-slicer at a deli. Yet Terror Town expected those young workers, among other things, to allow themselves to be shot by paintball guns.
The pay issue, obviously, is the primary concern of the kids who did their time in Terror Town and have nothing but paintball bruises to show for it. But for state and federal officials, that might very well be the least important part of an investigation.
Meanwhile, a word to parents: If your minor child is working somewhere, you have a responsibility to see to it that he or she is doing so legally – as in with a work permit, and in a safe environment – and to remind them not to sign anything that you haven’t also checked.