Bipartisan Bill Aims To Strengthen Penalties For Child Labor Violations

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 09: Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on June 9, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The committee is hearing testimony about the Fiscal Year 2022 budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo by Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)
(Photo by Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

OAN’s Stephanie Stahl
3:30 PM – Thursday, October 19, 2023

A new Senate bill that aims to strengthen child labor laws in the United States, amid a recent surge in child labor violations, has been formally introduced.


On Wednesday, the bipartisan proposal was presented in hopes of bolstering the penalties for violations, creating new criminal penalties, and allowing victims who are affected by child labor violations to file civil lawsuits and seek further compensation.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) spearheaded the bill, following a substantial 69% spike in child labor violations as reported by the Labor Department. 

“Recent data shows that child labor exploitation is not a thing of the past or a problem limited to the developing world. This bipartisan bill would strengthen our nation’s labor laws to better protect our children,” Young said.

If the bill is approved, it will establish new consequences for individuals who habitually employ minors. This would involve a potential monetary penalty of up to $50,000 and a maximum imprisonment term of one year.

The new legislation would also increase child labor fines from a $15,000 maximum to a new $132,270 maximum fine. For serious injuries or death, a company could be fined up to $601,150 for each violation. The current maximum fine is $25,000.

In a statement, Schatz contended that he was motivated to act when he learned that the fines for child labor violations were “miniscule,” adding that some industry representatives would prefer that the fines stay low indefinitely.

“You know, a 16-year-old is killed in a sawmill and multiple other kids are injured and the penalty is so small as to constitute the cost of doing business,” Schatz said.

Child labor infractions have been found by the Department of Labor across a wide spectrum of businesses, spanning from fast-food establishments and slaughterhouses to factories and construction sites. 

In accordance with federal regulations, individuals under the age of 18 are generally prohibited from working in most manufacturing facilities due to the inherent workplace hazards.

Employers who hire underage workers frequently contend that they encounter challenges in verifying a worker’s age since some individuals present fake identification documents that allege they are over 18.

Over the last year and a half, a number of tragic incidents have highlighted some of the dangers that underage and illegally-employed children face while working.

In July, a 16-year-old boy was killed in a Wisconsin sawmill facility due to injuries he sustained on the job. Florence Hardwoods, the company that hired him, was later found to have hired nine children, aged 14 to 17, to operate their dangerous machinery. 

Similarly, another 16-year-old reportedly died in July while performing cleaning duties at a chicken processing plant in Mississippi.

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