Taylor English Attorney Wins Appeal in Child Labor Case

May 5, 2011

Atlanta, Georgia, May 5, 2011 – The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirms win of Taylor English attorney defending against the Department of Labor.

Taylor English attorney Deborah Ausburn successfully defended Laurelbrook Sanitarium and School, Inc, a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school in Tennessee, against the Department of Labor’s attempt to apply federal child labor laws to the school’s vocational curriculum.

Laurelbrook emphasizes academic and vocational training equally, as the Seventh-day Adventist Church advocates, and provides hands-on training for students in its nursing home and school operations. The Tennessee Department of Education has accredited the program as a valid vocational curriculum.

In a trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, the U.S. Department of Labor claimed that the work performed by students at Laurelbrook should be covered by child labor laws that prohibit hazardous activities.  The Department’s definition of “hazardous” is so broad that it would have prohibited Laurelbrook students from normal vocational learning activities, such as using table saws in carpentry class, industrial mixers in culinary classes, or hand tools to create anything.  Those restrictions would have gutted the school’s vocational program.

Taylor English attorney Deborah Ausburn successfully convinced the trial court that the “primary benefit is to the students, who learn practical skills about work, responsibility, and the dignity of manual labor in a way consistent with the religious mission of their school."  Thus, the court held, federal child labor laws do not apply to the school's vocational curriculum.

The U.S. Department of Labor appealed its loss to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On April 28, 2011 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Ausburn’s win in a published opinion that establishes precedent for four states. The court held that Laurelbrook provides its students both tangible benefits, such as vocational training, and intangible benefits such as "responsibility and the dignity of manual labor." That combination of benefits convinced the court that, because the students reap the primary benefit from the vocational program, the Fair Labor Standards Act does not apply.

Ausburn, who has over 20 years of experience litigating similar cases, say the court’s affirmation is particularly gratifying. "Both courts specifically mentioned evidence that Laurelbrook graduates have a work ethic and leadership skills that are lacking in graduates of other programs. Laurelbrook believed in its program, and it deserves credit for refusing to give in to the power of the government."

‹ News Releases