By Doug Weiner
Hazardous occupations are no place for employees under the age of 18. Employers must be certain to prohibit minors from operating power driven wood working machines, metal working machines, bakery machines, fork lifts, balers and compactors, meat slicers, and nail guns. The full list of hazardous occupations are set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations, 29 C.F.R. 570, et. seq. Protecting America’s children in the workplace has long been a stated objective of the U.S. Department of Labor, and the civil money penalties for serious violations have recently been strengthened.
On January 20 the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division issued guidelines to enforcement personnel for determining appropriate civil money penalties against employers who violate the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. As stated in Field Assistance Bulletin 2010-1, the guidelines “draw heavily on the child labor civil money penalty process the WHD [Wage Hour Division] has developed over the past 25 years.” In addition, there is new advice resulting from the FLSA amendments that became effective May 21, 2008 with the enactment of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
The DOL has created a Child Labor Enhanced Penalty Program (CLEEP) to incorporate GINA’s stiffer penalties. A “CLEEP serious injury” is defined as one caused by a child labor violation resulting in a permanent loss or substantial impairment of one of the senses, or of the function or movement of specified body parts. The bulletin identifies categories of injuries, and provides higher penalties for more serious injuries.
GINA included an amendment to the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. 216(e), providing a penalty of $50,000 for a violation causing death or serious injury to an employee under the age of 18. The penalty may be doubled to $100,000 if the violation is willful or repeated. Prior to GINA’s amendment, the maximum child labor civil money penalty was $11,000.
For GINA’s enhanced penalties to be applicable there must be evidence to prove the violation of a specific Child Labor Hazardous Order directly caused the death or serious injury of an employee under 18. The January 20 Field Assistance Bulletin sets forth detailed examples of violations that cause injuries as opposed to injuries that occur while employed in violation of a child labor hazardous order.
Of course no one wants an accident to occur to anyone at any time. However, in light of the DOL’s increased enforcement authority in the area of child labor, employers are well advised to verify the ages of their employees. If an employee is under the age 18, it is mandatory to ensure the employee is not permitted to engage in any prohibited activities.