Massachusetts AG Launches Child Labor Awareness Initiative

May 26, 2016

With summer jobs approaching, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has launched an effort to educate teenagers, parents, and employers about the state’s youth employment laws.

“Because of committed employers across Massachusetts, tens of thousands of young people will have an opportunity to gain valuable job skills and work this summer,” Healey said.

“To make sure that everyone’s experiences are safe and productive, we are partnering with businesses, schools, and parents to make sure everyone understands the rules.”

In anticipation of youth summer employment, the attorney general’s office has sent letters and informational materials to all state public school superintendents responsible for issuing work permits to minors, which are required under state law for most workers under the age of 18.

The information materials include a fact sheet of state youth employment laws in multiple languages to be distributed to all parents and guardians of high school students.

The attorney general’s office also partnered with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, as many young workers are employed by municipalities during the summer, to include information in their monthly newsletter and on their website about child labor laws.

The attorney general’s office also recently announced its 2016 Healthy Summer Youth Jobs Grant Program, aimed at providing teenagers and young adults in underserved communities with summer opportunities for employment that will impact public health, wellness and disease prevention. The program is funded with $300,000 recovered by settlements the attorney general’s office reached with pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline.

Attorney General Healey’s Fair Labor Division enforces the laws that govern youth employment and works actively to prevent workplace violations.

The child labor laws include restrictions on both the occupations in which minors may be employed, as well as the hours they may work. The laws also require employers to ensure that teens have proper work permits prior to beginning work and that employers post all minors’ work schedules in the workplace.

During the first quarter of 2016, the Fair Labor Division cited seven employers for violating Massachusetts child labor laws, with penalties and restitution totaling nearly $40,000.

The violations included employment of minors without a work permit, allowing minors to work earlier or later than the permissible times, scheduling minors to work unsupervised past 8 p.m., permitting minors to work in hazardous occupations and requiring them to work more hours than allowed by statute.

The attorney general’s office is also participating in a social media campaign that is scheduled to launch next week by the Massachusetts Youth Employment and Safety Team, an interagency working group that brings together eight state and federal agencies to coordinate efforts to protect and promote the health and safety of young workers.

To ensure a safe and positive work experience for minors, the attorney general’s office offers the following guidance:

  • Minimum wage. The minimum wage in Massachusetts is $10 an hour. Even workers under 18 should be paid at least $10 an hour.
  • Minors younger than 14 may not work. There are a few exceptions, such as babysitting, working as a news carrier, working on farms, or working in entertainment (with a special permit).
  • Work Permits. Workers under 18 years old need a new work permit for every job. The application for a work permit must be filled out by the parent or guardian, the minor, and employer and submitted to the school district where the child lives or attends school. Minors who are 14 or 15 also need a physician’s signature. More information about work permits and the downloadable applications are available at www.mass.gov/dols/youth.
  • Hazardous Jobs. Teens under 18 years of age may not do certain kinds of dangerous work. The list of prohibited tasks for minors 14-15 and 16-17 years old is available on the attorney general’s website at www.mass.gov/ago/youthemployment.
  • Supervision. After 8 p.m., all workers under 18 must have the direct and immediate supervision of an adult supervisor who is located in the workplace and is reasonably accessible to the minor.
  • Legal Work Hours for Minors. Massachusetts law controls how early and how late minors may work and how many hours they may work, based on their age. The attorney general’s website, www.mass.gov/ago/youthemployment, provides information on the legal work hours.

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