Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services announce additional steps to tackle child labor violations, strengthen coordination
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services today announced a Memorandum of Agreement to advance ongoing efforts to address child labor exploitation.
The department’s Wage and Hour Division and the Health and Human Services Department’s Administration for Children and Families signed the agreement to formalize a partnership between the agencies, and outline procedures the agencies will follow as they work together to deepen information-sharing, coordination, training and education. The MOA seeks to maximize the division’s enforcement of the child labor protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act, to enhance the ability to protect children from exploitation and to connect individuals to needed benefits and services. The MOA include unprecedented steps for greater collaboration between the two agencies to prevent and address illegal child labor.
The agreement will do the following:
- Help identify geographies and employers where children are likely being exploited.
- Aid investigations by providing information to help identify circumstances where children are unlawfully employed.
- Facilitate coordination to ensure that victims or potential victims of child labor trafficking have access to critical services.
The agreement will also support the efforts of the interagency child labor task force announced on Feb. 27, 2023. The task force seeks to promote further collaboration and improve information-sharing between federal agencies, and to advance the health, education and well-being of children in the U.S.
“Our partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services will help us continue to combat illegal child labor and protect the most vulnerable,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “Our economy cannot – and will not – rely on the illegal hiring of vulnerable children. We will work across the federal government and with local and state partners to fight child labor exploitation.”
Since 2018, the Department of Labor has seen a 69 percent increase in children employed in violation of child labor laws. On Feb. 17, 2023, the department announced the resolution of one of the largest child labor cases in its history against Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD. Currently, the department is investigating more than 600 child labor cases.
“Child labor exploitation can disrupt a youth’s health, safety, education and overall well-being, which are unacceptable consequences for any child,” said Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families January Contreras. “This partnership with the Department of Labor provides further opportunity to carry out our mission of protecting the well-being of children by arming ourselves and our partners – inside and outside of government – with the information and tools needed to help us all be a part of preventing and responding to child labor exploitation.”
In addition to the MOA, the two departments have announced steps to further strengthen collaboration to combat child labor. The Department of Labor is holding employers like PSSI accountable for systemic abuses of child labor and launched a strategic enforcement initiative on child labor, now underway. It is also enhancing scrutiny for all employers to target labor violations at all steps in a supply chain. Finally, the department is calling on Congress to strengthen protections for all child workers and increase civil monetary penalties for child labor violations.
For its part, HHS is expanding post-release services for children and sponsors after children have left their care. The departments are collaborating on training materials to be deployed to relevant HHS programs and partners, and for unaccompanied children and their sponsors to educate them about child labor laws in the U.S. and their rights. Both departments will continue to collaborate on the creation of materials that are clear, easily accessible, and available to children, sponsors and other stakeholders.
Young workers, parents, teachers, advocates and employers are encouraged to visit the department’s YouthRules! website for information about child labor laws. Employers may use its Compliance Assistance Toolkit to ensure they comply with federal child labor laws.
Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division. Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of where they are from – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.