The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the implementation of tougher penalties against employers that illegally employ child workers.
"Protecting our youngest workers is one of this department’s top priorities. Beginning today, employers who hire children too young to work will face stiffer penalties," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a press release. "Work is not child’s play. When children do work, that work must be age appropriate, safe and positive, and, it must not interfere with their schooling."
Under the Labor Department’s new, tougher penalty structure, employers who illegally employ individuals ages 12 or 13 will face a penalty of at least $6,000 per violation. If a worker is under 12 years of age and illegally employed, the penalty will be at least $8,000. Penalties for illegally employing workers under age 14 could be raised to $11,000 under certain conditions.
"These increased fines, coupled with important recent revisions to the child labor rules and reinvigorated enforcement by the Wage and Hour Division, will help ensure the safety of children," added Solis.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act establishes rules governing child labor. Key provisions prohibit the employment of individuals under age 18 in hazardous nonagricultural occupations. Individuals under age 16 may work only limited hours outside of school hours. Additionally, 14- and 15-year-olds may not work before 7 a.m. or later than 7 p.m. (9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day). There are additional restrictions on the types of jobs and hours 14- and 15-year-olds may work.
Regarding agricultural employment, individuals under age 12 may be employed with parental consent, but only on very small farms that are not subject to the federal minimum wage requirements. Individuals ages 12 and 13 may be employed in agricultural work on the same farm as a parent, or with a parent’s consent. Generally, no hired farm worker under age 16 years may perform hazardous work or be employed during school hours.
The Labor Department recently published final regulations updating protections for young employees in nonagricultural work. A review of regulations governing child labor in agriculture is now underway.
The department’s YouthRules! website, http://www.youthrules.dol.gov, is designed to educate employers, young workers, educators, and parents about child labor, the jobs minors may perform and the hours they may work. For more information about child labor laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or visit http://www.dol.gov/whd.