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Friday, September 2, 2016

Labor Day: Protecting Our Children

This Labor Day we should reflect upon the integration of Child Labor Laws into the Workers' Compensation Act (WCA) and how the WCA protects our Nation's children from abuse and harm in the workplace.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (abbreviated as FLSA; also referred to as the Wages and Hours Bill) is a federal statute of the United States. The FLSA introduced the forty-hour work week, established a national minimum wage, guaranteed "time-and-a-half" for overtime in certain jobs, and prohibited most employment of minors in "oppressive child labor", a term that is defined in the statute. It applies to employees engaged in interstate commerce or employed by an enterprise engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce, unless the employer can claim an exemption from coverage.

Most states have enacted Child Labor Laws. In New Jersey minors under the Workers' Compensation Act are treated as a special class, and are provided with additional benefits and options not available to other workers. Minors are defined as those individuals under 14 years of age, who are employed in violation of the law, or between the ages of 14 and 18 who are employed without a certificate or special permit, or who are employed at any occupation prohibited by law. Even though minors are usually employed on a part-time basis mainly because of school obligations, the court has required that their salary be projected on a full 40-hour work week basis. The rationale for this decision is that a minor is presumed to have a potential for full-time employment. Gelman, Jon L., 38 N.J. Prac., Workers' Compensation Law § 3.6 (3d ed.).

Also in New Jersey, an infant  who is under 18 years of age can proceed with an action at common-law or any other appropriate proceeding in negligence. A minor who elects to sue at common-law for recovery for an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment may also seek recovery against a co-worker in that action. Gelman, Jon L., 38 N.J. Prac., Workers' Compensation Law § 3.6 (3d ed.).

The Workers' Compensation Act takes a strong position against Child Labor by the imposition of penalties against an employer who violates child labor laws. For all these reasons and more, on this Labor Day we should remember one of the critical aspects of Workers' Compensation Acts is to protect our children.
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.