Is Scientology breaking the law?

Allegations of violation of child labor laws by Scientology

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A St. Petersburg Times article describes three cases of children working in violation of state labor laws

St. Petersburg Times,
November 10-11, 1991


When Beth Erlich was 11, she signed her first contract.

A billion-year contract.

For the next several years, she grew up in Clearwater as a loyal Scientologist. In her early teens, she said, she worked until 10:30 almost every night, including school nights. She said she didn't complain when dinner was rice and beans, or when cockroaches scampered across her room.

Beth still went to school during the day. But at night, she worked as a file clerk and at other jobs, often alongside her father at the Fort Harrison. At her request, she sometimes studied Scientology during work hours.

The Scientology school never assigned homework, she said. "It was just understood that when we left school, we left it and went to work." She described a typical schedule:

Sunday: From 8 in the morning until 10:30 at night.
Monday through Friday: From after school until 10:30 p.m.
Saturday: Noon to 10:30 p.m. one week, off the next.

That works out to about 50 hours of work a week, during school. In the summer, Beth said she worked "full time." Other children worked similar hours, she said.

Someone at the Church of Scientology called Clearwater police this March to complain about a trespasser. An officer found Carlo D'Aubrey, 15.

Carlo, crying, told the officer he didn't go to school. He had just quit his job as a maintenance worker for Scientology -- a job in which he worked from 8:30 in the morning to 10 at night for $30 a week.

He was having trouble getting his last three paychecks.

Asked if the boy's work schedule would violate child labor laws, Scientology spokesman Richard Haworth said, "I would think so, if he actually worked such hours."

Francisco Rivera, a senior attorney with the Florida Department of Labor and Employment Security, agrees. State law generally prevents 15-year-olds from working more than four hours a day when school is in session.

A Clearwater police officer was surprised to see a 10-year-old boy walking downtown -- at nearly midnight.

The boy, Mark Martin, said he had gotten off work about 10:30 p.m.

Mark said he worked six days a week for the Church of Scientology.

He was supposed to earn $12 a week but hadn't gotten paid since starting four weeks earlier.

His mother lived in California and was supposed to be moving to Clearwater soon, he said. In the meantime, Mark lived with two brothers, 13 and 16, in a Scientology-owned motel.

An investigation by state officials into the 1983 incident ended after two months, when Mark apparently returned to California.

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