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DOL Reminds Employers to Prioritize Safety for Summer Youth Hires

In a news release, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently reminded employers hiring youth-aged workers to comply with federal child labor laws to ensure these hires have a safe and beneficial experience.

The DOL’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits employers from allowing youth-aged employees—workers who are under 18 years old—to perform certain tasks and work more than a specified number of hours. Child labor laws can vary based on the industry and state. Failing to comply with the FLSA can result in significant consequences for employers.

The DOL recently publicized investigations uncovering child labor law violations. Its Wage and Hour Division’s (WHD) recent investigations of three grocery store operators in Idaho and Oregon resulted in more than $240,000 in civil penalties and $114,382 in unpaid overtime and liquidated damages for 266 employees. Most penalties were related to child labor violations, including:

  • Permitting minors to operate heavy machinery
  • Allowing minors to work beyond the number of legally permitted hours
  • Failing to pay for meal breaks

In addition to paying civil penalties, unpaid overtime and liquidated damages, the grocery store operators agreed to implement improved measures to ensure future compliance with child labor laws.

From 2017 to 2021, the DOL identified more than 4,000 cases of child labor law violations, finding more than 13,000 youth-aged workers employed in a violation. To aid employers in keeping youth-aged workers safe, the DOL provides some general tips.

Acting WHD Administrator Jessica Looman says: “summer and seasonal work offers young people a unique opportunity to get valuable workplace experience while earning money, but it should never come at the expense of their education or safety.”

This recent warning is part of the DOL’s effort to ramp up enforcement and could translate to an increase in investigations this summer and beyond. As such, employers should continue to review relevant child labor laws to ensure compliance. Employers concerned about potential violations are encouraged to speak with legal counsel.

We will keep you apprised of any notable updates from the DOL.

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