Child Labor Bill Reform

House Bill:3790/Senate Bill 1094:

Spring 2005

16 year old Adam Carey of Salem, 16 year old Joseph Marzullo of
Malden and 17 year old Edward Duggan from Pembroke all lost their lives
doing work that was prohibited under the Child Labor Laws. Yet not one
of their employers was prosecuted for the violations that resulted in
the deaths of these three young men.


Teens are filling an increasing need in
businesses, especially in retail, restaurants, and health care facilities.
By the time they have graduated from high school, 80% of teens will have
held a job. In spite of the perception that teens work mostly in low-risk
jobs, young people face considerable risk:

  • Each year in Massachusetts, several thousand young people under the age of 18 require treatment in emergency departments for on-the-job severe injuries and health problems
  • Teens are injured on the job at approximately twice the rate of adults.
  • Teens are killed on the job at the same rate as adults.

Why aren’t the Child Labor Laws sufficient to protect teens?

In spite of the fact that the work of teens has changed dramatically,
Massachusetts Child Labor Laws have not been changed significantly since
the 1930s. As they are now, the child labor laws are very rarely enforced
by the Attorney General because there is no civil authority for that purpose
and the criminal courts are not inclined to pursue any but the most egregious
violations. Even in cases where teenagers have been killed on the job
while following their employers’ requirements to perform illegal
work, the attorney general was unable to prosecute those employers. This
limit in authority has resulted in a lack of effective deterrence to employers
who violate the laws. The goal of updating the laws is to provide teens
with the opportunity to work in a safe and productive environment.

Bills Sponsors

Representative Patricia Jehlen and Senator
John Hart

What the bill does

The Child Labor Reform Bill updates the antiquated state child labor laws, which apply to minors (teens under 18):

  • The Attorney General (AG) would be given the authority to enforce
    the Child Labor Laws through a civil process. Civil enforcement
    authority would allow the AG to use an administrative procedure to cite
    or fine employers whose actions put teens at risk. When the Legislature
    granted civil authority for enforcing the wage laws, the attorney general
    was far more successful in collecting lost wages and in enforcing other
    aspects of the wage and hour laws. This authority did not, however, extend
    to the child labor laws.
  • Teens under the age of 18 would not be allowed to work in jobs
    that require carrying a firearm. The law currently prohibits
    teens from working in the manufacture or compounding of explosives, but
    not in occupations that require handling explosives or firearms outside
    of a non-manufacturing setting.
  • Employers would be required to provide direct and immediate
    supervision to minors who work after 8 pm. This would reduce
    their vulnerability to robberies and injuries.
  • The child labor laws would be summarized on the back of the
    permit application;
    the teen, parent or guardian, and employer would be required
    to sign the application, indicating that they had read and understood
    the laws.
  • A single system would be established for issuing permits to
    14 and 15 year olds and 16 and 17 year olds, instead of the two systems
    which currently exist. This will reduce confusion for school
    issuing agents, for teens, their parents and their employers.