In June the Department of Labor introduced stricter child labor regulations and higher fines for employers who break them. “Work is not child’s play,” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis explained. “When children do work, that work must be age appropriate, safe, and positive, and it must not interfere with their schooling.” Under the new rules, young people under the age of 16 cannot hold any jobs that are not specifically approved by the government.
Although small farms are still allowed to employ children as young as 12 under certain circumstances, the Labor Department has stepped up enforcement of child labor laws in the agricultural sector. As a result, many farms have begun banning children altogether. This development puts a burden on many migrant workers, who often rely on younger family members as a source of income. It also poses a problem for workers who do not have access to day care facilities for their small children and, in some cases, can no longer bring them to their workplace. “It was better before, because if you didn’t have someone to take care of the kids, you could take them along,” Celidania Diaz, a migrant worker from North Carolina, told The New York Times.
The rules took effect at the end of July. Employers caught violating them face fines ranging from $6,000 to $11,000.