The Wage and Hour Division of The U.S. Labor Department has announced that it will re-propose its recent regulation changes to the “parental exemption” rule in its agricultural child labor laws. The re-proposal comes on the back of public outcry for more of an opportunity for public comment on the parental exemption section. The exemption loosens regulatory restrictions on allowable jobs for children working on farms owned or operated by their parents. Under the exemption, children are able to perform any job required, including work that is considered hazardous for children under 16 years old in non-agricultural sectors.
The DOL is looking to improve its regulations by attempting to better reconcile statutory child labor requirements while respecting rural traditions. Until the final revised proposal is approved, the current exemption will be applied to situations where the parent is a partner, part owner, or officer in a corporation that owns the farm. The proposed rule is an attempt to further increase federal protections for children working in agricultural positions. The motivation to change its 40 year old regulations come from new statistics indicating that children are much more likely to die during agricultural work than the combined deaths of all other industries. The proposal is relevant only to children under 15 years.
Speaking to the concerned parties about the expansion of public participation for the newly proposed regulations, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis stated, “The Department of Labor appreciates and respects the role of parents in raising their children and assigning tasks and chores to their children on farms and of relatives such as grandparents, aunts and uncles in keeping grandchildren, nieces and nephews out of harm’s way. Today’s announcement to re-propose the parental exemption means the department will have the benefit of additional public comment, and the public will have an opportunity to consider a revised approach to this issue. We will continue to work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that our child labor in agriculture rule generally, and the parental exemption specifically, fully reflect input from rural communities.”