Us Departments Of Labor And Health And Human Services Announce Additional Steps To Tackle Child Labor Violations, Strengthening Coordination

April 18, 2023

The new agreement further increases coordination and information sharing to help prevent and address child labor violations

The U.S. Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services announced today a Memorandum of Agreement – PDF to advance ongoing efforts to address child labor exploitation.

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division and the Health and Human Services Department’s Administration for Children and Families signed the agreement to formalize the partnership between the agencies, and outline procedures to be followed by both agencies in working together to address the need for deeper information sharing, coordination, training, and education. The purpose of this MOA is to maximize the enforcement of the child labor protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), to enhance the ability to protect children from exploitation, and to connect individuals to needed benefits and services. It represents unprecedented steps to maximize collaboration between the two agencies to prevent and address illegal child labor.

The agreement will:

  • Help identify geographies and employers where children may be likely to be suffering from child labor exploitation;
  • Aid investigations with information that could help identifying circumstances where children are unlawfully employed; and
  • Facilitate coordination to ensure that child labor trafficking victims or potential victims have access to critical services.

The agreement is in conjunction with the new interagency child labor task force announced by the agencies February 27, 2023. The focus of the task force is to further collaboration and improve information sharing among agencies, and to advance the health, education, and well-being of children in the U.S.

“Our partnership with HHS will help us continue to combat illegal child labor and protect the most vulnerable,” said Department of Labor’s Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “Our economy cannot and will not rely on the illegal hiring of vulnerable children. We will work across the federal government and with local and state partners to fight child labor exploitation.”

Since 2018, the Department of Labor has seen a 69 percent increase in children employed in violation of child labor laws. On February 17, the Labor Department announced the resolution of one of the largest child labor cases in the Department’s history against Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. LTD (PSSI). The Department of Labor is currently investigating over six hundred child labor cases.

“Child labor exploitation can disrupt a youth’s health, safety, education, and overall well-being, which are unacceptable consequences for any child,” said Administration for Children and Families Assistant Secretary January Contreras. “This partnership with DOL provides further opportunity to carry out our mission of protecting the well-being of children by arming ourselves and our partners – inside and outside of government – with the information and tools needed to help us all be a part of preventing and responding to child labor exploitation.”

In addition to the MOA, DOL and HHS have announced a number of steps to further strengthen collaboration to combat child labor. DOL is holding employers like PSSI accountable for systemic abuses of child labor and launched a strategic enforcement initiative on child labor, which is currently underway.  It is also enhancing scrutiny for all employers to target labor violations at all steps in a supply chain. Finally, it is calling on Congress to strengthen protections for all child workers and increase civil monetary penalties for child labor violations. HHS is expanding post-release services for children and sponsors after children have left their care. DOL and HHS are collaborating on training materials to be deployed to relevant HHS programs and partners, and for unaccompanied children and their sponsors to educate them about child labor laws in the U.S. and their rights. DOL and HHS continue to collaborate on the creation of materials that are clear, easily accessible, and available to children, sponsors, and other stakeholders.

Young workers, parents, teachers, advocates and employers are encouraged to visit the Labor Department’s YouthRules! Website for information about child labor laws. Employers may use our Compliance Assistance Toolkit to ensure they comply with federal child labor laws. Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of where they are from – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.

Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for android devices to ensure hours and pay are accurate.