May 5, 2010

XI. Detailed Recommendations

To the United States Congress

  • Amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to:
    • apply the same age and hour requirements to children working for hire in agriculture as already apply to all other working children: prohibit the employment of children age 13 and younger; limit the number of hours that children ages 14 and 15 can legally work to 3 hours a day on a school day and 18 hours a week during a school week; 8 hours a day on a nonschool day and 40 hours a week when school is not in session; and prohibit before-school work by children age 15 and younger;
    • raise the minimum age for particularly hazardous work in agriculture to 18, in line with existing standards in all other industries;
    • increase civil money and criminal penalties to improve compliance with the child labor provisions;
    • incorporate the Environmental Protection Agency’s Worker Protection Standard, 40 C.F.R. Part 170, into the child labor regulations, thereby protecting children working in agriculture not only from pesticides with acute effects (such as nausea, skin rashes, and dizziness), but also from those with chronic or long-term effects (such as cancer and interference with sexual reproduction);
    • require agricultural employers to report work-related deaths, serious injuries, and serious illnesses to the US Department of Labor in order to collect and publish better statistics than are currently available about such incidents; and
    • require the US Department of Labor to submit to Congress an annual report on work-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses of children working in agriculture, including an evaluation of the data that highlights, among other things, safety and health hazards and the extent and nature of child labor violations.
  • Halt the yearly approval of a special provision in the Department of Labor appropriations act that exempts almost all farms with 10 or fewer employees from the jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • Provide sufficient support to programs, such as those administered by the Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education, to remove barriers to the school enrollment, attendance, and achievement of child farmworkers and ensure that child farmworkers have access to and benefit from the same appropriate public education, including public preschool education, provided to other children.
  • Require the Department of Education’s Office of Migrant Education to collect and analyze state data on school completion rates for all child farmworkers and to report national and state results annually.
  • Repeal programs that require local police to enforce immigration laws so that undocumented children are able to report abuse without fear of deportation for themselves or their family members.

To the United States Department of Labor

  • Dramatically increase, through the Wage and Hour Division, the number of child labor and minimum wage investigations in agriculture, the most dangerous industry in which children are allowed to work.
  • Improve compliance with existing labor law by seeking higher civil money and criminal penalties in accordance with the law. In particular, amend the civil penalty regulations to reflect amendments made by a rider to the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (“GINA”) in 2008 that raise the $11,000 maximum penalty to $50,000 where the violation of a child labor provision results in death or serious injury, and where the higher penalty is doubled to $100,000 in the case of a repeat or willful violation. Make the department’s civil money penalty regulations (29 C.F.R. Part 579) more precise in order to assure that it imposes higher penalties, and that these higher penalties are upheld in litigation.
  • Appropriately use the Fair Labor Standards Act's “hot goods” provision, which prohibits the interstate movement of goods produced in violation of child labor or minimum wage laws, where the traditional course of citations and relatively insignificant civil money penalties would have little deterrent effect.
  • Propose and press for much-needed amendments to the list of jobs in  agriculture that deemed to be “particularly hazardous” for children, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2002.
  • Vigorously enforce OSHA Field Sanitation Standard, which require employers to provide workers with drinking water, toilets, and handwashing facilities
  • Request the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) to expand its surveys to collect information about child workers under, as well as over, age 14. Explore methods of counting working children that do not rely on reports from growers and adult farmworkers who may underreport the numbers of working children.

To Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

  • Conduct targeted investigations in agriculture rather than responding only to written complaints.
  • Continue and accelerate monitoring of “state plans” and require that all states enforcing OSHA-approved plans do so effectively, including frequent unannounced inspections.

To the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • Amend the Worker Protection Standard to impose a minimum age of 18 for all pesticide handlers.
  • Revise the restricted-entry intervals (REIs), which prohibit entry into an area treated by pesticides for a specified period of time following the application of the chemicals.  Distinguish between adults and children, and impose more stringent REIs for children. Incorporate an additional safety margin on top of what is determined necessary to ensure short and long-term safety, and take into account the combined effect of both occupational and non-occupational exposures. 
  • Closely monitor states' enforcement of the Worker Protection Standard and related pesticide regulations to ensure that such enforcement is vigorous and meaningful.
  • Further expand the program to educate workers regarding the Worker Protection Standard, and ensure that materials used are culturally, age, and language appropriate.
  • Ensure that state agencies responsible for enforcement of EPA regulations are staffed by a sufficient number of trained, bilingual (Spanish and English) compliance officers.

To the United States Department of Education

  • Conduct a study, with leadership from the Office on Migrant Education, to establish accurate data on school drop-out rates for all child farmworkers.

To All States

  • Ensure that state child labor laws are at least as protective as federal standards.
  • Set or raise the minimum age for agricultural work to at least 14, with the exception of children working on farms owned and operated by their parents.
  • Amend workers’ compensation laws to ensure coverage for farmworkers equal to that of other workers.
  • Provide training and a strong mandate to law enforcement to better respond to cases of sexual violence against farmworker girls and women.