US Department of Labor focused on preventing child labor violations, protecting young workers in Southeast as summer hiring surge approaches
ATLANTA – With violations of child labor laws up 69 percent since 2018 and millions of minor-aged workers joining the U.S. workforce each year – many in seasonal summer jobs in the restaurant, retail and amusement industries – the U.S. Department of Labor is actively working to educate Southeast employers about their legal obligations and make sure young employees are kept safe at work and paid fully.
As part of that effort, the department’s Wage and Hour Division will hold a webinar on child labor regulations for employers, minor-aged workers and their parents, school representatives and other stakeholders on April 26 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. EDT. The webinar panel is free, but registration is required.
The webinar will include a panel discussion that will include representatives from the Wage and Hour Division; Tennessee State Department of Labor; Safety, Health, Environmental Services at Georgia Tech; Georgia Restaurant Association and the Consulate of Guatemala.
From fiscal year 2020 through 2022, the division assessed employers more than $2.8 million in penalties and conducted more than 500 child labor investigations affecting nearly 2,900 minors in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Child labor violations were most commonly found in the restaurant, retail, construction and amusement industries, but recent violations in the Southeast auto manufacturing and meat processing industries are alarming.
“Federal child labor laws permit minors between 14 to 17 years of age to enter the workforce, so long as the job complies with federal, state and local child labor laws. In many of our investigations, the Wage and Hour Division found Southeast employers illegally allowed minors to work longer or more frequent hours,” explained Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Juan Coria in Atlanta. “We also discovered minors under 18 were assigned to perform hazardous occupations by employers who failed to understand their legal obligations to protect young workers from these potentially dangerous tasks.”
In its investigations, the division commonly finds young workers under age 16 working outside of federally allowed hours, workers under 18 assigned prohibited or hazardous occupations and employers failing to keep accurate records for youth workers.
“Unfortunately, we sometimes learn that an employer violated the law only after a child suffers an injury,” Coria added. “Failing to comply with the laws that protect minors’ safety is irresponsible and illegal.”
Part of the division’s focus on enforcement of child labor regulations is intended to prevent recent incidents involving injuries suffered by young workers, including the life-changing injuries suffered by an underaged worker in Florida illegally employed to work on a roof and hot oil burns sustained by a McDonald’s worker illegally assigned to use a fryer in Tennessee.
“The U.S. Department of Labor is determined to prevent child labor violations and to stop employers from jeopardizing the safety of young workers or harming their ability to keep up with their schooling,” Coria said. “We encourage employers, young workers and their parents and others to contact us with questions about federal child labor laws.”
The division offers many compliance resources, including a fact sheet on best practices for employing youth and its YouthRules! website for information on providing youth a positive and safe work experience.
For information about other laws enforced by the division or to report a violation, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Calls can be answered confidentially in over 200 languages. Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division.