PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (WFLA) — Five Florida skating rinks, including four in the Tampa Bay Area, have been fined for keeping their teenage employees past their legally allowed hours, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

A release from the department said the Astro Skating Centers in Brandon, Tarpon Springs, Pinellas Park, Bradenton and Ormond Beach were penalized $26,103 for child labor violations.

“We began investigating one of the skating rinks,” said Nicolas Ratmiroff. “We saw that other locations also had additional issues that we needed to check on.”

Ratmiroff is the district director for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

“We want to make sure that workers are protected,” Ratmiroff said. “That there’s fair and balanced enforcement of the laws.”

The department’s investigators said they learned the rinks kept 33 employees at the ages of 14 and 15 on shifts that violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“Specifically, the employer let the minors work past 7 p.m. while school was in session, past 9 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day, more than three hours when school was in session, more than eight hours on non-school days and more than 18 hours during school weeks,” the release said.

According to the department, the rinks did not keep accurate records that kept track of their minor employees’ ages.

“Federal law requires employers must balance their needs with their obligations to provide young workers with useful work experiences without jeopardizing their well-being or schooling opportunities,” said Ratmiroff. “We encourage, employers, parents, educators and young workers to use the variety of resources we provide to help understand their obligations and rights under the law.”, which is run by Florida’s Division of Corporations, said the rinks’ titles were held by the same man, Christopher Maganias. He said it all began during the pandemic.

“Our policy was always 16 and over, to hire,” Maganias explained. “When the corona[virus] hit, like everywhere else, short of staff. So we said, ‘Alright, we’ll start hiring at 15-and-a-half.'”

Maganias owns seven Astro Skating Centers across the state. He claims the problem was his younger workers couldn’t work more than four hours without a break, and they weren’t careful about clocking in or out.

“You’re dealing with young kids that are working,” Maganias said. “If you’re not on it, and you say to them, ‘Ok, it’s 3:57, punch out.’ And that kid wanders over to the clock, takes his time and all of the sudden, you’re in violation.”

Out of his 250 or so employees, Maganias estimates about 100-125 are 17 or under.

“We messed up, we paid the fine, we made corrections,” Maganias said. “Hopefully, we’ll try not to have it happen again.”

He said he’s now changed shift policy, so 14- and 15-year-olds work 3.5 hour shifts instead of 4 hour shifts to prevent future violations.

Employers can also contact the Wage and Hour Division at its toll-free number, 1-866-4-US-WAGE. Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including information about protections for young workers on the department’s YouthRules! website.