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The Associated Press

GUANGZHOU, China – Two factories that make Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) products in southern China violated overtime regulations and failed to properly register the use of workers aged 16 to 18, officials said Monday.

The problems at the plants in the city of Dongguan were initially raised last week by the National Labor Committee, a New York-based nonprofit that monitors the treatment of foreign workers by U.S. companies. The group alleged that the teen laborers worked long shifts and were not allowed to use bathrooms during working hours at the plants, owned by Taiwan-based KYE Systems Corp.

Some of the report’s findings:

* KYE recruits hundreds (up to 1,000) "work-study" students 16 and 17 years of age, who work 15-hour shifts, six and seven days a week making webcams, mice and other computer peripherals. Some of the workers appear to be just 14 or 15 years old. A typical shift is from 7:45 a.m. to 10:55 p.m. Most of the students work for three months, but some stay longer.

* Along with the students, KYE prefers to hire only women 18 to 25 years old, who are considered easier to discipline and control.

* Workers report that before the recession, they were at the factory 97 hours a week, while working 80 ½ hours. In 2009, workers were at the factory 83 hours a week, while toiling 68 hours.

* Workers are paid 65 cents an hour, which falls to a take-home wage of 52 cents an hour after deductions for factory food.

* Workers have to report early, unpaid, for military-like drills. Management controls every second of their lives.

* The work pace is grueling as workers race to complete their mandatory goal of 2000 Microsoft mice per shift. During the long summer, factory temperatures reach 86 degrees and the workers are drenched in sweat.

* Security guards sexually harass the young women. Workers are prohibited from talking, listening to music or going to the bathroom during working hours. Freedom of movement is restricted and workers can only leave the factory compound during regulated hours.

* Fourteen workers share each primitive, dirty dorm room, sleeping on narrow bunk beds. To "shower" workers fetch hot water in a small plastic bucket for a sponge bath. Workers report that the food is awful.

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The factories make Webcams, computer mice and Xbox controllers for Microsoft, the world’s biggest software company.

Investigators with Dongguan’s human resources bureau said in a report that factories are allowed to hire workers between the ages of 16 and 18 as long as the laborers are registered with the authorities. The KYE factories had 385 such workers – most supplied by vocational schools – and 326 weren’t properly registered, the report said.

Employees were also forced to work an excessive amount of overtime in March, clocking about 280 hours, the report said. Copies of the labor contract also weren’t given to employees, the document said.

But officials said that based on interviews with workers, there were no restrictions against using the restroom during shifts. The report said the company’s policy was to give workers 10-minute breaks for every two hours worked.

KYE Systems Corp. spokesman Lai Jin-hui told The Associated Press, "Assembly line workers are allowed to go to bathroom only if they report the need."

Lai insisted that factories did nothing wrong regarding overtime and had followed regulations that limit the workweek to 60 hours. But Lai acknowledged that the factories failed to properly register workers and would now fix the problem.

The human resources bureau report said the factories have been ordered to comply with the law and would be monitored closely.

Last week, Microsoft said it does quarterly onsite assessments and gets weekly reports from KYE about certain labor and safety criteria. The software maker said a team of independent auditors would visit the factories and monitor the situation pending results of its inspection.

(LTW contributed to this report.)