Recommendation: The Wage and Hour Division and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement systems should establish special-emphasis programs to increase the level and effectiveness of the inspections of industries that entail particularly high risks and employ large numbers of children. Such programs should also target noncompliant owners who endanger children by willfully or repeatedly disregarding the law. The Department of Labor should evaluate the effectiveness of penalty multipliers and other approaches to increased penalties for serious, willful, and repeated violations of wage and hour regulations and health and safety rules involving children at work.
Identifying violators serves two valuable functions: It provides information to young workers, their parents, educators, and others—enabling them to make informed choices about places to work—and it serves as a deterrent to employers, reminding them of their obligations. Publicizing violations of child labor laws is analogous to a public health agency's identifying restaurants found in violation of proper food handling procedures, and it is likely to have the same deterrent effect. To prevent unwarranted punishment, only serious, willful, or repeated violators should be so identified. This recommendation is made with the understanding that it represents a direct reversal of policy in some states, which explicitly prohibits the identification of violators.
Recommendation: State and federal agencies responsible for enforcing regulations governing the health and safety of working minors should actively publicize serious, willful, and repeated violators and violations.
Although a memorandum of understanding exists between the Wage and Hour Division and OSHA, little has actually occurred, in terms of cross-training of inspectors, referrals, or collaborative inspections, that would be efficient and effective in identifying and penalizing all child labor and health and safety violations in workplaces that employ minors. The number of inspectors or compliance officers available to each agency is insufficient and cannot be expected to permit either agency to regularly inspect all workplaces. If the inspectors were cross trained, however, either agency's inspectors would be able to identify serious violations of the other agency's regulations.