Children working in dangerous jobs are a common feature in many famous photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Child labor was common in mines, factories, and other hazardous workplaces until the 1930s when the U.S. Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). That law sets strict limits on employment for minors, including the kinds of jobs they may have and the number of hours they may work. New Jersey employment laws also regulate the hours that minors may work. The New Jersey Attorney General (NJAG) recently announced that it had settled a dispute with a restaurant chain over alleged child labor law violations. As part of the settlement, the employer reportedly agreed to pay $7.75 million in damages and fines.
The FLSA’s provisions on child labor prohibit anyone under the age of 14 from working in most jobs. Exceptions may apply with regard to jobs in agriculture, jobs within one’s family, newspaper delivery, and acting for film or television. The original purpose of the FLSA was to prevent children from working long hours in dangerous conditions. Children who are 14 or 15 years old may work limited hours in certain jobs. Between the ages of 16 and 17, the FLSA allows children to work in non-hazardous jobs for a longer number of hours.
Despite many advances in this area, child labor remains an issue throughout the country. A report on children’s rights by the organization Human Rights Watch assigned a letter grade from “A” to “F” to each state based on multiple factors, including child labor laws. While New Jersey received one of the highest grades in the country, it was still only a “C.”
State law provisions on child labor are similar to those found in the FLSA. In July 2022, the governor signed a bill that amends the law to increase the number of hours that teenagers may work while they are out of school during the summer. The maximum number of hours for 14- and 15-year-olds will remain the same as it is now at forty hours per week. Starting June 1, 2023, teenagers who are 16 or 17 will be able to work up to fifty hours per week, but no more than ten hours a day.
The settlement mentioned above began with an audit of the employer by the NJAG covering the years 2017 to 2020. Several locations in New Jersey operated by the employer reportedly had histories of citations for child labor law violations. The audit identified over 30,000 possible violations involving work in excess of forty hours per week and inadequate meal breaks. In addition to the $7.75 million payment, the employer agreed to “a far-reaching compliance plan” that will affect all eighty-five locations throughout the state.
If you believe your employer is engaging in unlawful wage and hour practices, including child labor law violations, you need a skilled advocate to help you exercise your legal rights. The employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group represent workers in New Jersey and New York in federal and state claims. Please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997 to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.