In a Harebrained Response to Labor Shortages, Some Lawmakers Want More Child Labor

February 17, 2023 In a Harebrained Response to Labor Shortages, Some Lawmakers Want More Child Labor

Danger sign and young person's feet wearing what look to be Converse sneakers
Source: Mirsad Sarajlic / Getty Images

Good Jobs First Research Director Philip Mattera wrote about efforts in some states to loosen rules and regulations put into place to protect children from being exploited by companies. As he notes, per our Violation Tracker, even without the changes, companies continue to abuse children, facing few penalties in the process.

While the Fair Labor Standards Act and state regulations eliminated the worst forms of child labor, they did not end abuses entirely. The Violation Tracker run by Good Jobs First documents more than 4,000 cases over the past two decades in which an employer paid a penalty for breaking the rules. The fines imposed in these cases amount to $99 million, or an average of about $24,000 per case — a reflection of the fact that penalty levels are far from harsh.

Most child labor violators are small firms, but some large corporations have also committed the offense. Chipotle Mexican Grill has the highest penalty total, mainly due to a $7.75 million settlement the company reached in 2022 with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. An audit conducted by the agency of Chipotle outlets had found over 30,000 violations across the state. Two years earlier, Chipotle reached a $1.87 million settlement with the Massachusetts Attorney General over child labor and other wage and hour violations.

Among the other big companies with substantial child labor penalties from multiple cases are: CVS Health ($464,099), Albertsons ($337,790) and Walmart ($317,378).

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