August 9, 2023
For Immediate Release: August 8, 2023
Child Labor Violations Continue to Rise in Maine
In the second quarter of 2023, the Department completed three separate investigations involving youth workers that were injured performing prohibited hazardous occupations.
AUGUSTA - In the second quarter of 2023, in addition to completing investigations involving the timely and full payment of wages and overtime violations, the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) continued to see an upward trend in the number of violations involving youth workers. The violations include employing youth workers without a work permit, working outside of the hourly restrictions for their age, and working in hazardous occupations not allowed under the law, which in some cases resulted in serious injury.
More information about these violations can be found on MDOL's Wage & Hour Division violations webpage - https://www.maine.gov/labor/bls/whv2023/index.shtml , which is updated on a quarterly basis. The Wage and Hour Division enforces employment laws such as the timely and full payment of wages, recordkeeping, overtime, tips, and child labor.
"The safety of Maines workers, especially our youth workers, is paramount to the Maine Department of Labor. All workers have the right to a safe work environment," said Michael Roland, Director of MDOLs Bureau of Labor Standards. "Most Maine employers comply with the nearly identical state and federal legal restrictions designed to protect the health, safety, and education of our minors. However, we have also been observing a marked increase in the numbers of work permits denied, violations of child-protective labor laws, and most disturbingly, in reported injuries to minors in Maines workplaces."
Employers in Maine and throughout the country are experiencing a tight labor market, and as a result are relying more heavily on younger workers to meet their workforce needs. Applications for minor work permits in Maine increased nearly 75% between 2017 and 2022. So far in 2023, the Department has received over 4,700 work permit applications. Of those, about 200 have been denied due to the application being for a hazardous occupation not allowed under the law.
Most concerning is the concurrent rise in injuries of employed youth. Reports of injuries to minors in the workplace has doubled over the past decade, from 162 in 2012 to 325 in 2022, according to Workers Compensation data. In the second quarter of 2023, the Department completed three separate investigations involving youth workers that were injured performing prohibited hazardous occupations.
It is important for employers to know their responsibilities, and for youth workers to be aware of their rights and in which industries and jobs they can safely, and legally, work. MDOL has created a workforce resource webpage - https://www.maine.gov/labor/schoolresources/ for youth workers and their support networks, and has a Maine Laws Governing the Employment of Minors webpage - https://www.maine.gov/labor/labor_laws/minorsguide/ to assist youth and employers with any questions they may have. The webpages provide information about work permits, legal work hours for youth, prohibited occupations, safety and health, as well as career exploration resources for students to learn about occupational pathways they are interested in.
Anyone who has questions about labor laws, or thinks their rights have been violated, should contact MDOLs Bureau of Labor Standards at (207) 623-7900 or https://www.maine.gov/labor/contact/index.html .
Some of the final agency action listed on the violations webpage - https://www.maine.gov/labor/bls/whv2023/index.shtml involve settlement agreements. When applicable, MDOLs Wage and Hour Division uses settlement agreements to increase compliance with employment law, ensuring that workers rights are protected. Agreements typically require the employer to take measures to ensure future compliance, such as training its management on employment law and demonstrating to the Department that it remains in full compliance with those laws. In certain cases where violations have been found and the employer is cooperative, the Bureau may agree to suspend a portion of the penalties assessed if the employer fully complies with the requirements of their specific agreement. Under no circumstances will the responsibility to pay earned wages be waived. Breaching the agreement could result in significantly increased penalties. These agreements usually remain in effect for two or three years, during which full penalties may be enforced in the event of a breach of the agreement.
About the Bureau of Labor Standards:
The Bureau of Labor Standards Wage and Hour Division conducts routine random inspections of employment records and also frequently responds to complaints filed by employees who believe their rights have been violated. If after investigating BLS finds that violations have occurred, its priorities are to protect youth workers and secure any back wages that employees are entitled to.
The Bureaus Outreach and Education Division offers information and training to workers and employers who wish to learn more about those laws. Contact Heidi Holst, Outreach and Education Coordinator, at Heidi.R.Holst@maine.gov for more information.
Wage and Hour violations from 2021-the second quarter of 2023 can be found on the Departments website: https://www.maine.gov/labor/bls/
Workers can contact the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions and to file a complaint. Worker protections apply to everyone regardless of immigration status, and all workers have the same right to a safe workplace and fair pay. No-cost translation services are available.