The federal Department of Labor fined three McDonalds franchises $212,754 for employing as many as 305 children to work more hours than permitted and performing tasks prohibited by law for child workers, such as working hot grills, ovens, and deep fryers. The franchises are located in Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland and Ohio. These child workers are merely the latest in a significant uptick in child labor. The Department of Labor reported a 69% increase in child workers, including undocumented migrants, illegally employed by companies since 2018.
Among the hundreds of child workers included two 10-year-olds who were working as late as 2am. The franchise that owns the McDonalds were the two children were found claim that the children belonged to a night manager and were not known or approved by the franchise to work there.
Some states are embracing the use of child labor. Arkansas, Iowa, New Jersey, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin have recently passed laws or have bills pending that would allow companies to hire minor children without work permits. These jobs would not be limited to office jobs, but would include potentially dangerous locations such as construction sites, meat packing plants, and automobile factories.
Some of the New State Laws
Arkansas previously required that parents obtain permission from the state before hiring a worker under the age of 16. Gov. Huckabee Sanders signed a bill this year that undoes this requirement. The Governor’s office called this permit requirement “an arbitrary burden on parents to get permission from the government for their child to get a job.” Iowa’s bill would allow teen minors to work additional hours, serve alcoholic beverages under the supervision of two adult supervisors, and work in locations with industrial laundry or meat coolers. Proponents for this bill argued that teens should be provided with greater work opportunities. Minnesota lawmakers have introduced a similar measure allowing children to work in construction sites.
New Jersey expanded hours for workers 16 and 17 years of age from 40 to 50 hours and permits 14 and 15 year olds to work up to 40 hours when not in school. Ohio followed suit with a similar bill expanding child labor hours.
Financial Pressures Do Not Necessitate Expanding Child Labor Laws
Gov. Huckabee Sanders’ argument regarding parental rights is also wrong. There are plenty of bad parents or parents who are not thinking the potential ethnics of the situation. Objectively, ten year olds should not be up at 2am at a McDonalds, but that still occurred because their parent was a McDonald’s night manager. Parental consent is not sufficient to stop potential child exploitation, especially if a parent is potentially one of the parties pushing for it.
Iowa’s proposal to allow teenagers to serve alcohol, when they aren’t legally permitted to drink alcohol themselves, is particularly absurd. Teenagers should not be allowed around drunk adults, especially teenage girls, who may be abused by predatory men. Having two adult supervisors is not a failsafe since the adults will likely be doing their own jobs rather than watch an employee at all times.
It is not a surprise that many of these child labor law reversals come after rising inflation in housing, food, and other essentials of life. However, the way out of inflation is not allow children to work in factories, construction sites, or increased hours. Society has an obligation to protect children, not to exploit them. Rules are most needed when things are about to go wrong. If society is only willing to protect children until the price of groceries goes up, then we do not actually value or want to protect children. Yes, it may cost more to increase wages for more workers, but it is morally and a better market-based solution than using children to circumvent wage increases.
Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?
If you believe that your child’s labor rights have been violated at work, it may be helpful to consult with a labor lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you of your child’s rights as well as the various laws that may apply to their situation.
Although some states are attempting to rollback such protections, there are strict federal laws that apply to child’s work, including laws on discrimination, harassment, or injuries. In addition, as the penalties for violating child labor laws may be severe, it is essential to have a lawyer protecting your interests in court if you are an employer.