New Concerns Over Child Labor Practices

A lot of attention is being focused on child labor in light of the new law passed by both houses of the New York State legislature proposing that all models under 18 be protected by the same labor laws that apply to child actors, singers, and performers.

The new law requires all children under 16 be accompanied by a chaperone. Under age, or minor models need a special permit to work and they won’t be allowed to work after midnight, nor can they return to work less than twelve hours after they leave a job site. If a child misses more than three days of school, the employer must provide a tutor, and a place to study. Finally, 15% of the child model’s income will be placed into a trust account that only the child can access when they turn 18.

Related to the concern of under age models and child labor practices is the much bigger problem of child labor in the fields. A proposed bill, titled the CARE Act was introduced into Congress recently, and it seeks to remove agricultural exemptions for large corporate farms from the Fair Labor Standards Act, and ensure child farm workers receive the same protections as children working in any other industry.

According to an investigation by NBC Bay Area, there are dozens of children, many as young as 8 years old, working in the fields of large corporate farms. These children generally work 10-12 hour days in 100 degree plus heat. Many go to school in the evenings, and return to the fields by 6am the following day. There are approximately 400,000 children who work in agriculture on corporate farms and this is possible because there is an exception in the current US labor law that allows a child to work the fields despite requiring a child to be at least 14 years old to work limited hours at an indoor job such as a fast food restaurant, grocery store or office.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the risk for teen workers under the age of 18 dying while working in agriculture is almost four and a half times higher than for any other child working in every other industry in America.

Although many parents like to instill a strong work ethic in their children it is vitally important that we protect them from abusive employment practices and ensure that they are physically and psychologically ready to work. The CARE Act seeks to protect our youngest members of society across the board regardless of the type of work they choose to do.

When hiring minors to work in any field, it is important that one abide by all local, state and federal labor laws pertaining to the employment of an individual under the age of 18. Working regulations for minors even vary within different age groups. With the DOL spotlight shining on child labor laws, this issue stands to be an area in which legal examples will be made out of companies who fail to comply.

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