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Following Questioning From Schatz, Acting Labor Secretary Recommits To Rigorously Enforcing Child Labor Laws, Supports Legislation To Raise Penalties

Schatz Leads Bipartisan Legislation To Establish New Criminal Penalties, Impose New Steep Fines For Employers Who Violate Child Labor Laws; Schatz Also Highlighted Work Of DOL’s Women’s Bureau To Ensure Gender Equality In the Workplace

WASHINGTON – At a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) questioned Acting Labor Department Secretary Julie Su on the FY25 budget request, underscored the urgent need to stop child labor, and called for raising penalties for employers who violate child labor laws. Schatz is the author of the Stop Child Labor Act, bipartisan legislation that would increase maximum fines for child labor violations, establish new criminal penalties, allow victims harmed by violations to file private lawsuits, and encourage collaboration between employers and government to stop child labor violations before they occur.

In questions to Acting Secretary Su, Schatz asked, “I actually want to talk to you about an area where we do need a new statute. Senator Young and I also have a child labor bill… that will simply crank up those penalties. As you know, it is $68,801 maximum penalty for a child labor violation that results in the death of a child. $68,000 is what we have in federal statute. And so not only have companies made the judgment that between the office of the solicitor and overall resources for the Department, that they may not get caught, but even if they get caught, it's not that expensive and it can be booked as a cost of doing business. If a child dies on a factory floor, it's $68,000, capped. I’d like you to talk about the practical impact of those penalties. What would happen if those penalties were turned up to the point where it was a real financial hit?

In response, Su said, “I can't say it better than you've already said it. When employers feel like breaking the law can just be a cost of doing business because the consequences, even when they're caught, are so minimal, the incentives to comply are too poor. And, we do everything we can at the Department of Labor, through our investigative resources, to expose illegal practices, to hold all of the companies who are responsible, accountable. We do appreciate the efforts of Congress in light of all of the attention to child labor and the cases that we continue to see, to do everything in your power to help make it more costly for those who break the law.”

In today’s hearing, Schatz also highlighted the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau to ensure gender equality in the workplace.

julie su q&a release pic

Video of Senator Schatz’s full exchange at today’s hearing is available here.