Child Labor Laws Making Headlines in 2019

While an Indiana lawmaker has made headlines as of late due to his push to repeal Indiana’s child labor laws, you may wonder, “Are child labor laws still an issue in this country?”  According to the United States Department of Labor’s (DOL) recent press, it sure seems to be an issue worth revisiting for businesses employing minors.  As of February 13, 2019, the DOL issued six (6) press releases detailing violations of federal child labor laws by thirteen (13) employers across the country.  While one violation involved permitting minor employees to work over the limited work hours permitted under the law, the issue of allowing minors to use hazardous equipment appears to be the predominant factor in each cited violation.

The DOL described one violation involving a 17-year-old who suffered an amputation of his index finger while operating an unguarded saw, but some of the other violations of the hazardous equipment rules were less obvious.  For instance, the DOL cited a Subway franchise owner for permitting minor employees to operate prohibited baking and toaster ovens, while another restaurant was cited for requiring minor employees to clean a meat slicer and large dough mixer.  Other violations announced by the DOL included allowing minor employees to operate chainsaws, ride in the back of a dump truck while removing overhead branches, operate a front-end loader and track hoe, and operate paper bailing and cardboard compacting machines.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines a “minor” as any individual under the age of 18, and sets specific wage, hours worked and safety requirements for minors working in specific job categories covered under the FLSA.  Additional state law requirements for minors vary from state to state.  While the rules vary depending on the particular job or industry, as well as the age of the minor, the laws generally aim to protect minor workers from long work hours which may disrupt educational obligations and potential injury from what the law considers to be “hazardous” work for minors.

Bottom line, employers utilizing minor workers must make an effort to understand the employment laws that apply specifically to their business and industry and ensure the laws are followed.  Employers may take a number of steps to ensure legal compliance, including well-drafted job descriptions for minor workers, policies and procedures designed to compel compliance with the law, and training for managers and minor employees to reiterate the company’s commitment to complying with state and federal child labor laws.

The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country for over sixty years in labor and employment matters. Our team is available to discuss issues related to DOL and FLSA compliance and other matters. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.