Federal Government Seeks to Change Child Labor Rules

THE U.S. Department of Labor published on April 17 a proposal to change the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations governing the employment of teenage workers.

"The proposal contains the most ambitious and far-reaching revisions to the child labor regulations in the last 30 years," said Wage and Hour Division Administrator Paul DeCamp. "It will safeguard the health and education of millions of working teens while at the same time allowing them to enjoy the benefits of a phased introduction to the workplace."

Key proposals include new bans on particularly hazardous activities such as working at poultry slaughtering plants, riding on forklifts as passengers, fighting forest fires, and loading and operating non-paper products balers and compacters. The proposal also would prohibit 14- and 15-year-olds from employment in youth peddling activities, also referred to as door-to-door sales.

In a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), the department is requesting comments on proposed changes to seven non-agricultural hazardous occupation orders (HOs) and on suggested revisions to the rules for 14- and 15-year-olds. In an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), the department seeks information to update certain HOs for which there weren't sufficient information to propose new rules.

This proposal is the second in a series of updates to the child labor regulations and stems from the department's enforcement experience, a statutory change and a 2002 NIOSH review of the child labor HOs. In December 2004, the department issued final regulations that, among other modifications, expanded protections for youth working in roofing and restaurant cooking.

Under the FLSA, 14- and 15-year-olds may work only in occupations explicitly authorized by the secretary of Labor by regulation and only under conditions that do not interfere with their schooling or health and well- being. Sixteen and 17-year-olds, on the other hand, may work in any occupations except those that the secretary has found to be "particularly hazardous" or "detrimental to their health or well-being."

For additional information on the proposed rules, visit the Wage and Hour Division home page at http://www.wagehour.dol.gov. For compliance information on the current child labor rules, see the YouthRules! Web site at http://www.youthrules.dol.gov.

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