Employ teens? Child-Labor fines, enforcement on the rise

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Buried in the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) that President Bush signed this year was a little-noticed provision that substantially increased the potential fines against employers that violate federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) child-labor laws.

If employees under age 18 are killed or seriously hurt due to an FLSA child-labor violation, employers can now face a $50,000 fine for each violation. The fine can be doubled if the violation is “willful” or “repeated.” Critics argued that the definition of “seriously hurt” can be broadly defined by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Experts predict that the new law will embolden the DOL to step up its enforcement activity, which is already on the rise (see chart, below).

“The publicity and awareness generated by GINA’s amendments could result in DOL devoting an even greater level of enforcement resources to child-labor matters,” says a Fisher & Phillips law firm report.

Advice: The DOL says the majority of child-labor violations involve 14- and 15-year-olds working too many hours, too late at night or too early in the morning, plus under-18 workers performing jobs that are prohibited for safety reasons.

Online Resources:  For more information on complying with federal child-labor laws, go to www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/cl/.

Also, note that many states set their own child-labor laws. For a roundup of those state-by-state laws, go to www.dol.gov/esa/whd/state/state.htm.

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