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Child Labor Is Alive and Well and a Problem for You

Most of us in the developed world rarely see barefoot urchins with dirty faces and near-empty tummies wielding machine parts larger than themselves, but the sad truth is that child labor law violations exist today, and they create problems for all of us, not just the exploited minors.

The commonwealth of Massachusetts found it necessary to tighten child labor laws and penalties in 2007 after "on-the-job deaths of several teenagers, including a 16-year-old who was killed after losing control of a golf cart at a Salem country club," according to the Boston Globe.

The top 15 companies for child labor law violations listed by the attorney general's office in Massachusetts are mostly fast food restaurants and country clubs. Country clubs often hire teenage summer staff to work not only in the restaurant, but on the various recreational activities such as swimming pools, golf courses, and tennis courts.

Violations include, but are not limited to, making teens work past 10 p.m., making them work without appropriate supervision and making them work longer-than-legal hours, sometimes over 48 hours in one week. In addition to the exploitation, injuries, and deaths that minors suffer, the adult staff also suffers when child labor laws are broken.

Teens are cheaper than adults. They don't ask for sick pay or vacation pay. They are often eager to please, don't always know their rights, and, therefore, may be easier to take advantage of.

The job market is tough enough at the moment that adults are competing with teens for some of the same work, and yet teens are being given inappropriate job duties. An adult may know that more than minimum wage is warranted in return for operating heavy machinery, but a teen might simply do as he is told. When companies give minors jobs and responsibilities that violate child labor laws, employers are taking the job away from a qualified adult.

It causes one to wonder if the fines levied by the state of Massachusetts are lower than the financial savings gained by exploiting youth on the job. In 2008, Dunkin Donuts was fined almost $20,000. Did they save more than that by having kids clean hot kitchen equipment and close up shop in the mall by themselves?

The state of Massachusetts has compiled a list of both federal and state child labor regulations, which you may peruse here.

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(Photo Credit: Children's Bureau Centennial/Flickr)

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