Gov. Josh Shapiro’ administration said this week that state labor officials have begun to see an increase in reports of child labor law violations.
Since January, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has opened 403 child labor investigations compared to 107 cases during the same period last year, a 276% increase.
Labor and Industry Secretary Nancy Walker called the increase in reports a “concerning trend.”
“I want teens, parents, school employees, co-workers, local law enforcement and the general public to know that L&I investigates all potential violations of the Child Labor Act. I want employers to know that we will hold you accountable if we determine that a violation has occurred,” Walker said.
The surge in reports to the department comes as states across the country continue to loosen child labor law protections, initially enacted to keep children safe.
Three teens died on the job this year in the U.S., including a 16-year-old boy who was killed while working at a slaughterhouse in Mississippi in July.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported later that month that it is investigating more than 700 child labor cases.
Between October 2022 and July 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor had 765 child labor cases, finding 4,474 children employed in violation of federal child labor laws. The department also levied more than $6.6 million in penalties on employers found to violate federal law.
According to the department, the cases reflect a 44% increase in children found employed in violation of federal law and an 87% increase in penalties assessed over the same period.