This article is authored by Akash Krishnan, a law student from ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad. It discusses in detail the federal and state labor laws that govern child labor in the United States of America.
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Child labor in America is an issue that dates back to its very foundation. In simple words, child labor can be defined as the unlawful employment of children at workplaces. This was done because children could be easily exploited and could be subjected to cheaper wages. Children were subjected to work in a variety of places, including mines and glass factories, which in turn were injurious to their health.
The issue of child labor was addressed for the first time in the year 1906, when the Beveridge proposal was introduced. This proposal sets forth conditions w.r.t the types of work wherein children could be employed. However, this proposal was not adopted. It was finally in the year 1930 that uniform legislation for the regulation and prohibition of child labor was introduced in the USA. This legislation was referred to as the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) 1938. This legislation saw multiple amendments from time to time and remains the primary law for the protection of children against all forms of exploitative child labor to this date.
Now that we have a brief background on the evolution of child labor law in the United States of America, let us try and understand this law in detail.
The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, 1938
This statute defined the term oppressive child labor under Section 203 (4)(l) of the Act. It states that child labor would be deemed oppressive when any person employs any child below the age of 16 in any occupation. An exception to this rule was provided wherein the parents or guardians of children below the age of 16 could employ their children in any work except mining, manufacturing, or any other form of hazardous employment as the Secretary of labor provided. The main objectives of this provision were to ensure that the health of the children was not affected due to hazardous working conditions and that the children could attend school without any interference. This provision further disallows children below the age of 18 to be employed in places having hazardous working conditions, which may be detrimental to their health. Also, the minimum age for non-agricultural employment was 14 years under the statute. The FLSA also covers provisions regarding minimum wages, keeping of records, payment of overtime wages, etc. Further, under multiple provisions, the FLSA calls for equality in the minimum wages, overtime wages, health and safety benefits, etc. that are provided to adults and children.
Employment of children aged 14 and 15 years
The statute, however, had several exceptions which allowed children to work. Children who are 14 or 15 years old were allowed to work after school hours for a limited period of time. However, this was subject to the permission of the parents or guardians of the children. The following guidelines were set for the same.
That no child aged 14 or 15 years shall be:
- Allowed to work during school hours.
- Allowed to work before 7 am or after 7 pm.
- Allowed to work more than 3 hours on a school day and more than 18 hours a week during a school week.
- Allowed to work more than 8 hours on a non-school day and more than 40 hours a week during non-school weeks.
The provisions regarding school hours are not applicable to the following:
- Any student who has graduated from high school;
- Any student who has to support a child and has been excluded from the compulsory attendance requirement by the state or any officer of the state;
- Any student who has been ordered by the court not to attend school;
- Any student who has been expelled; or
- Any student whose employment rules and regulations are in conformity with the school attendance standards.
Employment of children aged 16 years
Coming to children aged 16, they are allowed to work in multiple places and were allowed to do so without any specific permission or approval from their parents or guardians. The working hour restrictions are not applicable to them. The only condition for employment was that the place of employment should not have been declared hazardous by the Secretary of labor. Multiple occupations are prohibited hereunder and include employment in places involved in the manufacturing of explosives, mining, excavation operations, use of power operating machines for woodworks, metal works etc.
Employment of minors in places that use machinery to process wood products
Section 13(c)(7) of the FLSA allows minors between the ages of 14 and 18 to work in places that use machinery to process wood products for the following categories:
- Any student who is exempted from compulsory school attendance by law or order of the court
- Any student who is under the supervision of an adult relative at the workplace or any other adult member of the same religious sect.
However, even though this exception allows minors to work in such places, children are still prohibited from operating any power-driven machines or performing any activity with respect to cleaning, oiling, and maintaining the machinery. Also, while working in such places, children have to mandatorily wear protective equipment.
Enforcement of FLSA
The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor is the authority that is authorised to enforce the provisions under the FLSA. Apart from governing the provisions under this Act, they are also responsible for enforcing provisions of all labour policies under government contracts, farm labor, medical leave etc. The investigators under this department are authorised to collect information with respect to wages paid, hours of work and any data relating to compliance with the provisions under this act by the employers.
Any employer who violates the provisions of this act can be subjected to civil penalties in the form of payment of compensation to the child. This compensation does not exceed $10000 per child who has been employed in violation of the FLSA. These penalties can be increased for subsequent violations as well. Further, if any minor dies or suffers from any serious injury in the course of employment that is not in conformity with the provisions of this Act, the employer is liable for a civil penalty of up to $50,000. However, if the violation is willful or repetitive, the penalty can be extended to $100,000.
On receipt of notice to pay a fine as a penalty for a violation of the act, the employer has a 15-day period to file an exception showing cause as to why he should not be charged with the alleged breach. Upon receipt of this exception, the matter is referred to the Chief Administrative Law Judge, who then schedules a hearing. The determination as to whether or not the employer has to pay the penalty depends on the evidence produced during such a hearing and the outcome of the same.
Hot goods injunction
Hot goods can be defined as goods that have been produced by illegal child labor. The shipping or delivery of any good that has been produced in the USA with the use of illegal child labor is strictly prohibited under the FLSA. The Wage and Hour Division is authorized to stop the interstate commerce of such goods, seize them, and disallow any further shipment of such goods.
An injunction to compel compliance
The Wage and Hour Division is authorised to file for an injunction against any employer who is violating the FLSA, seeking their compliance with the provisions of the FLSA. In the event of any further violation, such employers will be liable for contempt of court along with the violation of the relevant provisions under the act.
Any willful violation of the provisions of the act can be subjected to a fine of up to $100,000. For any subsequent convictions for similar offences or a willful violation of the provisions of the Act, employers can be subjected to a fine of $10000 or imprisonment for at most 6 months or both. However, these being the maximum prescribed penalties, the minimum penalties payable were very low. Thus, in 2010, the same was increased.
Now, any employer who employs a minor below the age of 12 shall be liable to pay a minimum fine of $8000 per minor employed instead of the earlier amounts of $850 in the case of nonagricultural employers and $1,150 in the case of agricultural employers. For employing minors aged 12 and 13, the maximum penalty now stands at $6000 per minor employed instead of the earlier amounts of $850 in the case of nonagricultural employers and $1,025 in the case of agricultural employers. The maximum criminal penalty for employing minors aged 14 or below was also increased to $11,000 per minor, from the earlier sum of $10,000.
Other important legislation
The Wyden Bill, 1985
Ron Wyden, a Congressman of the 99th Congress, introduced the infamous Wyden Bill, which aimed to introduce provisions to protect minors from being employed in door-to-door selling groups. Reports suggested that minors were used by such employers to peddle both legal and illegal goods, endangering the lives of such minors. Moreover, the late-night working hours and the working environment in itself were considered a threat to the employed minors. Several flagrant violations of the FLSA were noted across the country, including non-payment of minimum wages, abuse of child workers, etc.
However, the Department of Justice was against the introduction of such legislation. They believed that there was no evidence that minors were a target of such employers and were suffering from violations of the FLSA. Based on these conclusions, the Wyden Bill met its end.
The Travelling Sales Crew Protection Bill, 2003
Senator Kohl of the 106th Congress, in 1999, was one of the first people to call for a law to regulate travelling crews that employed minors. Several reports suggested that travelling crews used to violate the provisions of the FLSA and would ill-treat minors and exploit them by offering meager wages. Even after such flagrant violations of the FLSA, they used to escape law enforcement officers due to the nature of their work as they fled from one state to the other and therefore escaped the jurisdiction of state law enforcement agencies. In lieu of the same, Senator Kohl introduced the Travelling Sales Crew Protection Bill. However, at the end of the 106th Congress, the bill also met its end and was not adopted.
Once the 107th Congress was established, Senator Kohl put forth a proposal to introduce legislation to regulate the travelling sales crews. This legislation sought to amend the FLSA and was to introduce a provision that prohibited minors from being recruited for any employment wherein such minors would have to engage in door-to-door sales or any related work that would lead to them being away from their homes for more than 24 hours. This legislation further provided guidelines that regulated employers and also provided for an enforcement mechanism. This bill was first referred to the Committee on Health and Education as an amendment to Section 212 of the FLSA and was passed by the Committee. Thereafter, the Bill was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, wherein the Bill met its end at the end of the 107th Congress.
The Youth Worker Protection Bill, 2003
This issue was taken up by Representative Lantos in the 108th Congress and was then referred to as the Lantos Bill. However, no action proceeded in the 108th Congress. After its failure, he introduced the Youth Worker Protection Bill 2003, which provided for the prohibition of the employment of minors in peddling. This Bill was referred to the Sub-Committee on Workforce Protections and no further action was taken thereafter. The salient features of this bill are listed hereunder:
- The term ‘minor’ was defined under the bill as any person who is at least 14 years old and is permitted to work under the FLSA. Any person between the ages of 16 and 18 will be deemed a minor if the employment in question is in a non-hazardous place and is not detrimental to their health.
- Each minor shall possess a work permit. This document shall consist of details regarding the name, gender, ethnicity, date of birth, consent of the parent, contact details of the parent etc. Also, the details of the employer and type of work should be mentioned on it. Such work permits can be revoked by the Secretary of labor or any authority designated by him for this purpose if the minor fails to comply with his school attendance requirements or the employment in question is injurious to his health.
- If any work injury is sustained by a minor, the Secretary of labor or any authority designated by him for this purpose should be informed of the same by the employer, concerned medical professional and the school in which the child is enrolled.
- Hours of work were prescribed to be the same as under the FLSA.
- Information related to work permits and records of the injuries sustained at work should be kept for at least 7 years.
- A state agency should be designated by the Secretary of labor to review the enforcement of the child labor laws and file annual reports regarding the number of hours devoted by government employees towards the enforcement of these laws.
- The Bill strictly prohibited the employment of minors in youth peddling.
- Children who are 14 years of age or older can be employed in agricultural operations after school hours.
- Children aged 10 to 12 were prohibited from being employed in any form of agricultural operation.
- The Secretary of labor was to issue a list of rules regarding hazardous operations for regulating the employment of minors in such areas. The rules were to be reviewed periodically every 5 years.
- Minors were prohibited from being employed in seafood processing, compactors, commercial paper balers and any other place wherein they would have to dispose of oil or any other liquid from fryers.
- It created uniform provisions regarding the employment of children in hazardous agricultural operations and also increased the penalties for any violation of the same.
The Safe at Work Bill, 2005
Congresswoman Rosa DeLaura introduced the Safe at Work Bill 2005 in November 2005. This bill was divided into two parts. Firstly, it provided for strict regulation for the Secretary of labor. Under this provision, the Secretary of labor was prohibited from entering into any agreement with any person wherein such person could be informed of an upcoming inspection or investigation against him for violations of the provisions of the FLSA. Secondly, it imposed a duty on the Comptroller General under which he had to collect information regarding violations of the FLSA, take action against each such recorded violation, and also make a record of the outcome of every action taken. Further, he had to do a comparative analysis of the extent of violations committed by large and small enterprises. However, this bill also met its end in 2006 after it was referred to the Committee on Education and Workforce.
The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment 2005 (CARE)
The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment was introduced by Congress Representative Lucielle Roybal Allard in July 2005. This legislation primarily dealt with the issue of child labor in agriculture. Through this legislation, he proposed several amendments to the FLSA.
Section 213(c) of the FLSA allowed children below the age of 16 to be employed in agriculture. However, he proposed the exclusion of this provision from the FLSA. It provided for two exceptions. Firstly, it allows children to be employed in agricultural operations if the employer is the parent or guardian of the minor. Secondly, it allowed the employment of minors on farms that were being operated by their parents or guardians. This legislation further sought to repeal Section 213(c)(4). This provision empowered the Secretary of labor to allow employers to hire children aged 10 and 11 to harvest crops. However, children could be employed only after school hours.
Next, the bill sought to amend the criminal and civil penalties for the violation of provisions under the FLSA. Employers were to submit a report to the Secretary of labor regarding any serious work-related injury or illness caused to minors. The failure to submit such a report was penalised with a civil penalty of $7000 per minor. To enforce this and other provisions under the Act, the Secretary of labor was empowered to appoint at least 100 additional inspectors. Also, the Secretary was directed to issue rules and regulations governing the exposure of children to chemicals and pesticides during agricultural operations. He was to work in close coordination with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to issue and implement penalties for such exposures.
Apart from the FLSA, this bill also sought to amend the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. It proposed that at least $10 million, or 4% of the amount prescribed for youth activities under the Workforce Investment Act, should be used for conducting youth activities under the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Programs.
This Bill was first referred to the Committee on Education and Workforce, then to the Sub-Committee on Workforce Protections, and thereafter to the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness. However, even after multiple referrals and considerations, the bill was not passed for adoption by either of these committees and met its end in October 2005.
Child Modeling Exploitation Prevention Bill, 2005
Congressman Mark Foley pushed for the enactment of the Child Modeling Exploitation Prevention Bill 2005 in the House with the sole aim of protecting child models from abuse in the commercial world. Reports stated that minor girls from the age of 10 were being influenced either by their parents or outsiders in order to portray them on the internet as models for gaining viewership. In turn, these parents or outsiders earned money by fixing a subscription fee for accessing these photos. Mr. Foley was of the view that such actions promoted inappropriate forms of modeling and content created by children, and that these innocent children were being deceived and exploited.
This Bill aimed at prohibiting such forms of exploitative child modeling. It proposed to amend Section 212 of the FLSA, and this new provision was to act as a legal prohibition against exploitative child modeling. The Bill defined exploitative child modeling as an act wherein a child below the age of 17 was used as a model to market the image of such a child in the expectation of financial gains. It strictly prohibited all people, including the parents of the child, from engaging in such practices and also prohibited any form of contractual relationship in this regard. The Bill also proposed imprisonment of at most 10 years for any person who engages in exploitative child modeling.
After its introduction in the House, the Bill was first referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, then the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and finally to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. However, the Bill was not passed for adoption by these committees and therefore was not adopted by the House.
The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment 2007 (CARE)
Congress Representative Roybal Allard pushed a revised version of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment of 2005 as the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment of 2007. It had only differences from the previous Bill. Firstly, it removed the authority of the Secretary of labor to appoint additional inspectors; secondly, it restricted the use of funds under the Workforce Investment Act from being utilised for youth activities under the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Programs.
After its introduction in the House, the Bill was first referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. However, the Bill was not passed for adoption by this Committee and therefore was not adopted by the House.
The Child Labor Protection Act, 2007
Multiple bills with the same name were introduced in the American House in the year 2007. It all began with the introduction of the Child Labor Protection Act 2007 in the House by Congress representative Lynn Woolsey. The penalties for violations of the FLSA were significantly increased under this bill. The maximum penalty to be paid by an employer per employee for violations of the FLSA was increased to $11,000 from $10,000. If any violation resulted in death or caused any serious injury to any minor below the age of 18, the employer was liable to pay a maximum penalty of $50,000 for each violation. This penalty was further increased to $100,000 in the case of repetitive or willful violations of the FLSA. Further, the bill also sought to increase the penalty for non-payment of minimum wages or overtime wages from $1,000 to $1,100. This Bill was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor and was passed by them; thus, it was finally adopted by the House in June 2007.
Next in line was the Child Labor Protection Bill 2007 which was introduced in the US Senate by Senator Norm Coleman. This bill re-introduced the changes that were brought in by the Child l}Labor Protection Act, 2007, which was introduced by Mr. Lynn Woolsey. This bill was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. However, no further action was taken on the matter.
Lastly, it was Senator Tom Harkin who introduced the Child Labor Protection Bill 2007 with the intent of amending the existing maximum and minimum penalties under the FLSA. Firstly, for every violation of the FLSA, it sought to implement a minimum civil penalty of $500 and a maximum civil penalty of $15,000 per child. The Bill proposed a minimum penalty of $15,000 and a maximum penalty of $50,000 for every child that suffers a serious injury at work or succumbs to death in the course of their employment. This penalty was to be further increased to $100,000 in the case of repetitive or willful violations of the FLSA. Further, the Bill also sought to increase the penalty for non-payment of minimum wages or overtime wages from $1,000 to $1,100. The Bill also aimed to introduce criminal penalties for violations of the FLSA in the form of fines and imprisonment or both. This bill was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. However, no further action was taken on the matter, and thus, it was not adopted by the House.
The Child Labor Safety Bill, 2008
Congress Representative Bruce Braley pushed for multiple amendments to the FLSA with the intent of increasing the existing penalties under the Act through the introduction of the Child Labor Safety Bill, 2008. For every violation that attracted a civil penalty, he proposed to increase the penalty from $11,000 to $50,000 for each violation. Further, it aimed to increase the penalty for any violation that results in the death of a minor or causes serious injury to a minor, from $50,000 to $100,000. For violations of the provisions of the FLSA, he proposed the introduction of a fine of $50,000 or imprisonment of at most 6 months or both.
After its introduction in the House, the Bill was referred to the Committee on Education and labor. However, the Bill was not passed for adoption by this Committee and therefore was not adopted by the House.
The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment 2009 (CARE)
The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment, 2009 was introduced in the House by Congress Representative Roybal Allard with the aim of prohibiting the employment of minors in agricultural activities. However, this came with two exceptions. Minors could be directly employed by their parents on farms, or they could work on farms that were owned by their parents. This legislation further sought to repeal Section 213(c)(4). This provision empowered the Secretary of Labor to allow employers to hire children aged 10 and 11 to harvest crops. However, children could be employed only after school hours.
Further, the bill sought to amend and increase the criminal and civil penalties for the violation of provisions under the FLSA. It also imposed an obligation on employers to submit a report to the Secretary of Labor regarding any serious work-related injury or illness caused to minors. Also, the Secretary was directed to issue rules and regulations that prohibited the employment of minors in agricultural operations where there was a risk of exposure to pesticides.
This Bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. However, the Bill was not passed for adoption by this Committee and therefore was not adopted by the House.
The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment 2011 (CARE)
The penultimate edition of the CARE laws was introduced by the same Congressman who had introduced CARE 2009, i.e., Congress Representative Roybal Allard, and was referred to as the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment, 2011. It had identical provisions to that of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment, 2009. This bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. However, like CARE 2009, this bill was not passed for adoption by this Committee as well and therefore was not adopted by the House.
The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment 2013 (CARE)
The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment, 2013 was the final edition and the final attempt by Congress Representative Roybal Allard to bring in multiple amendments to the provisions of FLSA. The salient features of this legislation are listed below:
- The primary aim of this legislation was to increase the minimum age for being employed in agricultural operations from 14 to 16. It further increased the age of minors at which they could be employed in hazardous agricultural operations from 16 to 18. These changes were in line with the existing age for employment of minors in non-agricultural operations.
- It prohibited the employment of minors in hazardous activities involved in agricultural operations. The existing regime allowed such employment if the activity in question occurred on a farm owned and operated by the parent of the minor employed. The absolute prohibition was an attempt to repeal this exception and bring the law in line with other businesses that prohibited the employment of minors in hazardous activities even if the business was owned and operated by their parents.
- The existing regime allowed minors aged 12 and 13 to be employed on agricultural farms either with the consent of their parents or if their parents were employed on the same farm. However, these minors could be employed only in the activity of harvesting crops. Further, these minors could be employed even without the payment of minimum wages. This legislation aimed to remove all these provisions and prohibit the employment of minors aged 12 and 13 in agricultural operations absolutely.
- Minors below the age of 18 were prohibited from working in agricultural activities where they could be exposed to pesticides.
- Criminal penalties for willful and repetitive violations of the provisions under the FLSA were introduced.
This bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. However, like its predecessors, this Bill was not passed for adoption by this Committee either and therefore was not adopted by the House.
State labor laws for minors
Although the FLSA can be deemed as the backbone of child labor laws in the USA, each state has enacted their own labor law legislation that deals with child labor practices and compulsory school attendance. These state laws also vary from the federal legislation.
The FLSA has no provisions that govern the entertainment industry. However, there are multiple states that have specific laws to govern the use of child labor in this industry. In California, children cannot be employed in the entertainment industry for more than 8 hours a day and not more than 24 hours a week. In New York, for children under the age of 16 to work in the entertainment industry, prior permission has to be sought from the mayor of the state, whereas in the state of Arkansas, prior permission has to be sought from the parents of such minors. In the state of Connecticut, permission has to be sought from the labor Commissioner. Other states like Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, and Nebraska, require a work permit to be issued by the Department of labor for employing children below the age of 16. Some states also exempt the application of child labor laws in the entertainment industry. This includes the states of Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, and Oklahoma. Some state laws provide that, on the order of a court, a portion of the earnings of a minor is to be set aside in the form of a trust. This includes the states of California, Kansas, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Referring to the much-debated occupation of door-to-door sales, states like Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, and North Dakota have prohibited the same and have declared it to be hazardous employment, whereas the states of Oregon, Virginia, and Washington only prohibit employment in the occupation of door to door sales by minors below the age of 16 and allow minors aged 17 and 18 to be employed with special permission by the Department of labor. Other states, like Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin have allowed all minors to work in door-to-door sales. However, mandatory registration is to be obtained for the same. In California, minors under the age of 6 are prohibited from being employed in this occupation. The state of Pennsylvania allows minors under the age of 16 to be employed in door-to-door sales with the consent of their parents, whereas the state of Texas has mandated parental consent for all minors below the age of 18. The state of Nevada prohibits minors under the age of 16 from being employed in door-to-door sales in counties where the population is 100,000 or more.
While multiple states in the USA follow the minimum and maximum working hour standards prescribed under the FLSA, i.e., 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week when school is in session, there are some states that have different working hour regimes. The State of Iowa follows a different schedule for working hours and allows minors to work for only a maximum of 4 hours per day and 28 hours per week when school is in session. The State of Massachusetts allows minors to work for only a maximum of 3 hours per day and 18 hours per week when school is in session. New York state labor laws provide for a different set of rules regarding work hours for minors. 16 and 17-year-old minors are prohibited from working for more than 4 hours during the first four days of the week and not more than 8 hours for the remaining three days. The total working hours are limited to 28 hours every week.
Minimum age standards
The FLSA prescribes a minimum age of 16 for children to be employed in agricultural operations. However, multiple states have come up with variations of the same. The states of California, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Washington, and Wisconsin have increased the minimum age to 18. These states allow 16-year-old minors to work in agricultural operations only if they are legally exempted from attending school. Apart from these states, the state of Illinois has reduced this minimum age to 12. Also, states like Delaware and Florida have exempted the age limitations for working in agricultural activities unless the child is to be employed in hazardous operations. The state of Pennsylvania has exempted the application of the FLSA to agricultural workers, including child laborers, and has made separate regulations to govern them under the laws governing seasonal farm workers. Under the FLSA, children are allowed to work in agricultural fields without any restrictions as to working hours. However, in Arizona, children are subject to strict working hours even while working in agricultural fields, i.e., they are restricted to working only for 8 hours on non-school days and for 3 hours a day when school is in session.
Minimum wage standards
Multiple states allow children to work for more time than what has been prescribed under the FLSA. This includes the states of Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, and Nebraska, among others. The aim behind these provisions is to make children more financially stable and independent. Under the FLSA, the minimum wage to be paid to employees is $7.25 per hour. However, there are multiple states that have increased the minimum wage. These states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and Colombia. The increased wages range from $8 to $16. The states of Georgia and Wyoming have reduced the minimum wage rates to $5.15 per hour. It is important to note that where federal and state laws have different minimum wage rates, the higher wage rate becomes applicable.
- In the case of Thirsty’s, Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of Labor (1999), the District Court of Texas stated that the primary objective behind the enactment of the FLSA was to protect children from harm and prevent any form of interference with their schooling.
- In the case of Shiloh True Light Church of Christ v. Brock (1987), the United States District Court of North Carolina, while discussing the significance of the FLSA, noted that the Fair labor Standards Act was reasonable and non-discriminatory legislation that was aimed at preventing the exploitation of children by employers. It further noted that the provisions of the act are constitutionally valid and can be enforced by the appropriate authority.
- In the case of Clark v. SS Golf Group, Inc (2011), the United States District Court of Florida put forth a three-fold test to determine who falls under the category of an employer under the FLSA. It stated that for an entity to qualify as an employer the following 3 conditions must be satisfied:
- Whether the place of employment was within the entity’s premises.
- Whether the entity exercised any control over its employees.
- Whether the entity has any power to fire, hire or modify the terms of employment of the employee.
- In United States v. Fisherman’s Fleet, Inc. (2007), the United States District Court of Massachusetts observed that the time limitation to file a claim for any alleged violation of the provisions of the FLSA or any claim of compensation arising under the act should be filed within a time period of 5 years from the date on which such a claim accrued. It further noted that a claim for damages does not include liquidated damages.
- Commenting on the powers of the Wage and Hour Commission, the Court of Appeals of Oregon in the case of Northwest Advancement v. State (1988) observed that the Wage and Hour Commission is authorised to inquire and collect data at any time with respect to the wages paid, hours worked and conditions of employment of all minors who are employed by any entity.
The Fair Labor Standards Act has been the standalone Federal law for regulating child labor in the country. Although multiple states have come up with their own legislation, the primary objective remains the same, i.e., to allow the children to work within health and safety limitations and also provide them with adequate schooling opportunities. Also, it is pertinent to note that the state legislatures are able to fill the gaps in the federal statute by enacting provisions for the entertainment industry and by reducing or increasing age limits. What needs to be ensured is that the penalties and minimum wages under all the state laws, wherever less, are brought into uniformity with the federal statute. This will in turn ensure that employers do not see the lower minimum wage restrictions as an opportunity to abuse child labor. Thus, all these different statutes are coming together to protect children as a whole and allow them to grow in a stable environment.
- NOTE: CHILD LABOR LAWS AND THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF STATUTORY EMANCIPATION, 33 Hofstra Lab. & Emp. L.J. 121
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