Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why Repealing Child Labor Laws Is a Truly Stupid Idea

Did you hear the one where the Republican contender for president said we ought to repeal child labor laws? Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but if you weren't paying attention due to all the holiday parties, you might have missed Newt Gingrich's comments on the subject. He said that child labor laws are "truly stupid." He wants poor 10-year-olds to become school janitors.

As the mother of a 10-year-old, Mr. Gingrich's comments have been weighing on me. I had to speak up. Talk like this might get some headlines and votes, but it's shortsighted to even think about abolishing child labor laws.

Anyone who is thinking that this proposal is anything but idiotic needs a little history lesson:

Read more in The Huffington Post.

Thanks again to Gina Misiroglu of Red Room for putting me in touch with the Huffingto Post people!


  1. When I was 16 I was forced to have my school sign paperwork that was not otherwise required of someone older than me. This caused me to not get one of the internships that I wanted (they were closed when I needed the paperwork). The 2nd internship also required a consent form but was unpaid. When I was 17 I had a 2nd internship but also required paper not otherwise required of older people.

    While it may not be a good idea to completely eliminate child labor laws what would you do about such anti-youth bigotry?

  2. I understand, youthcanberight, how it feels like the paperwork was a punishment. The reason for the cautionary paperwork is to make sure young people have enough time for school work. There's a huge dropout rate for young people who work many hours. It's not so much bigotry as trying to make sure that youth have a chance to finish school and not get stuck in a dead-end position.

  3. It wasn't just a punishment - it was demeaning. I had to get permission from my school and parents to accept an offer for a job I was clearly qualified for (this was a in-my-field internship, not a job a grocery store). If you swapped the word "black" or "woman" in your paragraph above you would be outraged! I understand that people do have to go to school and study, but it isn't right to treat them as inferiors either.

    1. There's nothing wrong with allowing kids to start earning before they turn 16 through small part-time jobs. I don't think the Speaker wants to re-build the Triangle Building and stock it full of illiterate 10 year old for 60 hours per week. I worked under the table from age 11 until 17 at a pizza shop in town, 15-25 hours per week, depending on the season. I graduated HS, played three sports and, best of all, I bought my first two cars in cold hard cash and learned the value of hard work and saving from a very young age. There are a lot more kids who are running out in the streets without any parents in the picture than there are working full-time to support their families - there's the source of your dropout rate. We aren't a third world nation (yet). Child labor is far from the biggest problem with this nation's underground economy.

      Should Johnny be running heavy machinery for 40 hours per week? No. Should all child labor laws be abolished? No. But if a 14 year old kid knows that his parents won't have any money to buy him a car, he should be allowed to go out and slowly save to buy it on his own, if his parents are OK w/it and if a business wants to take a chance on someone that young.


I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.