HARRISBURG – Seeking to protect minors in Pennsylvania from being exploited by unscrupulous employers, Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh) has introduced legislation that would increase penalties for child labor law violations and improve reporting requirements of such cases.
“The number of child labor violations nationwide has jumped dramatically in recent years, and it’s time we do something about it,” said Mackenzie. “Our state laws should be strengthened to better protect any at-risk child in the workplace and more harshly punish employers who take advantage of them.”
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has reported a 69% increase in the number of child labor law violations in the last five years. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry also recently announced it has opened 276% more child labor cases since January than during the same period last year.
Additionally, Mackenzie noted that according to recent media reports, about 263,000 unaccompanied minors were placed with sponsors in the U.S. during the last two years with over 34,000 of those children living with nonfamily sponsors or distant relatives.
Unaccompanied minors have been found cleaning slaughterhouses at night, working in factories, and doing other dangerous prohibited occupations, which has prompted some Republican U.S. senators to call for, and the Biden administration to open, an inquiry on the federal level by the DOL.
House Bill 1714 would make the following changes to Pennsylvania’s Child Labor Act:
A violation of the act would be a second-degree misdemeanor if the violation was willful, and the employer knew or should have known the child was without proper parental supervision and took advantage of the situation.
The Department of Labor and Industry would be required, when applicable, to cross-report violations to appropriate federal and child welfare authorities. This would ensure an at-risk minor is removed from a dangerous working or living situation.
An annual report would be required to detail the nature of violations, the locations, and the industries where violations are most frequently occurring.
“We need bipartisan action on the state and federal levels to help stop this kind of heinous activity that is exploiting innocent children,” added Mackenzie.
The bill has been referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee, for which Mackenzie currently serves as Republican chairman.
Representative Ryan Mackenzie
187th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives