Two parents have recently sued the Connecticut Department of Labor, asking the court rule that the child labor protection laws should not apply to situations such as theirs where they want their own kids to work in the family pizza place.
The issue in a nut shell is this. Federal labor laws have several exemptions to the child labor rules that allow kids under the age of 14 to work to deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movie or theatrical productions; work in businesses owned by their parents (except some hazardous jobs) and perform babysitting and other minor chores around a private home.
But Connecticut has its own set of rules, primarily set out in Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-23 that sets a higher floor. While there is a provision in Sec. 31-23(c) that states that, "No provision of this section shall apply to agricultural employment, domestic service, street trades or the distribution of newspapers", it cannot be said that any exemption applies to family businesses.
So how are the parents trying to get around it? By claiming that their constitutional rights are being infringed. Whether or not they are successful, there is another legal path also available to the parents — get the law changed.
In many cases, our state’s laws in the areas are over 60 years old (and date back even further in some instances). Indeed, the laws in this area are so old that one provision still prohibits minors from operating elevators!
But one of the problems in this area is drafting a law to limit the abuse of kids while still affording parents the ability to raise and teach them as they deem appropriate. But since federal laws have work for many years, it seems like a challenge that can be met in the next session.