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News Release

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.


Employment Standards Administration

ESA Press Release: Sears Signs Child Labor Partnership Agreement with US Department of Labor [05/14/1999]

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Sears, Roebuck and Company will implement a corporate-wide program to ensure compliance with federal child labor laws in all of its stores. Under the terms of the agreement, Sears is taking proactive steps to assure child labor compliance including self-audits of nearly all of its 845 full-line stores across the country. Sears also agrees to pay a fine of $325,000 for alleged violations of the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

"It is very important that our young people have constructive early work experiences," said Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "But it is equally important that their jobs are safe and complement their education, rather than compete with it. The agreement that we have reached with Sears shows that it is serious about and committed to assuring the safe employment of teens."

Along with the self-audits, Sears, a leading U.S. retailer of apparel, home and automotive products and services, agreed to enhance training for store managers and young workers to ensure compliance in the future. The company also will provide informational material to the parents of all young employees under 18 years of age.

"We all must work together to protect the well-being of our young people our most precious asset," said Herman. "We believe that when corporations take steps to help advance our goal of providing teens with positive and safe work experiences, everyone wins. We believe Sears' commitment to corporate-wide compliance and its new child labor program can be a model for other corporations to build upon."

The Wage and Hour Division of the department's Employment Standards Administration investigated 71 of Sears' 845 full-line stores and found in 44 of those stores that Sears permitted 16-and 17-year-old workers to load and operate power-driven paper balers and operate freight elevators and fork lifts. Those tasks are declared to be hazardous and inappropriate for workers under 18 years of age. In addition, a few 15-year-old workers were found to have worked more hours than permitted by federal regulations. The investigations discovered 227 young workers employed in violation of child labor laws. While paying the fine, Sears did not admit liability.

Child labor regulations prohibit the employment of workers under 18 in any job the Secretary of Labor has found to be particularly hazardous or detrimental to their health and well-being. The Fair Labor Standards Act also limits the times of day, number of hours and types of jobs in which 14-and 15-year-olds may be employed.

The Wage and Hour Division enforces these standards. For more information about child labor laws, visit the web site at or call the local office of the Wage and Hour Division listed in the blue pages.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Employment Standards Administration
May 14, 1999
Contact: David Roberts
Phone Number