Legislator Votes To Protect Minors In The Workplace

Representative L’Italien voted in favor of legislation to strengthen child protections in the workforce and streamline the work permit process. The legislation updates antiquated statutes and increases penalties against those who violate child labor laws.

North Andover – State Representatives Barbara L’Italien (D- Andover) voted in favor of legislation strengthening protections to all Massachusetts children, under the age of 18, in the workplace. The legislation also took steps to further streamline the child work permit process.

The bill was passed last week to strengthen Massachusetts’s child labor laws. The House voted overwhelmingly to send the bill to the Senate after the Joint Committee on Commerce and Labor reported on it favorably. The vote marks the first time since the 1930’s that the Legislature significantly reformed Child Labor statutes.

“This legislation is beneficial to both employees and employers. The existing laws do not accurately reflect the current job market affecting young workers today,” said Representative L’Italien. “As a teenager I learned valuable life lessons in the workplace and believe that today’s teenagers can benefit from similar experiences, however, we must guarantee that they do so in a safe and appropriate environment.”

Currently, the Attorney General only has the power to seek criminal charges against violators of the child labor laws. The existing statutes are rarely enforced because the criminal courts are not inclined to pursue such cases.

The bill strengthens the enforcement authority of the Attorney General’s Office by allowing him to fine employers who violate the Child Labor Laws through a civil process. First offenses would cost $500; second offenses, $1,000; and subsequent offenses, $5,000. “The provisions of this bill would create a much greater deterrent to employers that willingly violate the statute,” Representative L’Italien said.

The bill also extends working hours for all 16 and 17 year olds, from 10 PM to 11:30 PM on non-school nights. Furthermore, the legislation requires that teens working after 8 PM have an adult supervisor, and prohibits minors from working in jobs that require them to carry a firearm. Finally, the bill reorganizes the work permit application process by requiring each child under the age of 18 to obtain an employment permit from their local school superintendent. The current system requires permits for 14 and 15 year olds and educational certificates for 16 and 17 year olds.

Representative L’Italien stated, “Two thirds of American high school students are employed. We need to make sure that the proper safeguards are in place to protect them.”

The bill was filed in response to concerns raised by the Attorney General, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (Mass COSH), and many concerned parents and working teens after reports have shown that teens are injured on the job at approximately twice the rate of adults.