The United States Department of Labor has just announced that it is raising fines for employers that illegally employ child workers. Under its new, tougher penalty structure, employers who illegally employ minors will face penalties of up to $11,000 per worker for each violation. When children work, the work must be age appropriate, safe and it must not interfere with their schooling.

No minor under the age of 18 may work in hazardous jobs. Similarly, no minor under the age of 16 may work in, about or in connection with, power driven machinery.

With regard to hours of employment, with limited exceptions, no minor under 18 may work more than six consecutive days in one week, more than 40 hours in one week or more than eight hours in a day. No minor between 16 and 18 may work before 6 a.m. or after 11 p.m. They may, however, work after 11 p.m. during school vacations and on days which do not precede a regularly scheduled school day, provided they have written permission from their guardian. Similarly, they may work in a seasonal amusement or restaurant after 11 p.m. and into the following day if they start their shift before 11 p.m. either during any regular school vacation period or on workdays which do not begin on a day which precedes a regularly scheduled school day. However, under no circumstances may a minor between 16 and 18 work after 3 a.m. or before 6 a.m. on a day which precedes a regularly scheduled school day.

With regard to breaks, no minor under the age of 18 may be employed or allowed to work for more than five continuous hours without at least a thirty (30) minute lunch break.

There are also special schedule posting and recordkeeping requirements for minors, and employers are subject to criminal penalties for violating either state or federal wage and hour laws relating to minors. Each day, and with respect to each minor, constitutes a separate offense. Finally, minors may sue employers in court for work related injuries, unlike adults who must bring a workers’ compensation claim.

Considering that state wage and hour laws may differ, employers outside New Jersey need to consult their state’s laws.