New Oregon Bill Set to Strengthen Child Labor Regulations

Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

A proposed legislation (House Bill 4004) aiming to raise civil penalties for violations of child labor laws has been approved by both chambers of the Oregon Legislature and is now on its way to the governor for approval.


The augmented penalties would apply to various child labor regulations, encompassing working hours and restrictions on the types of work permissible for those under 16. 


The bureau proposed the bill due to an increase in illegal child labor across the country, highlighting current limitations and the need for financial autonomy to deter violations effectively.


The bill seeks to raise the maximum fine for violating child labor laws from $1,000 to $10,000, an amount that has remained unchanged since the 1980s.


The bill gained unanimous support in the state house on February, 26 but faced opposition from six state senators (a 24-to-6 vote).


While concerns were raised on the bill’s hefty financial penalty that could significantly harm numerous small businesses, seen as excessive and unwarranted, labor bureau officials affirm that the maximum penalty targets severe cases, specifically, individuals deliberately and persistently violating child labor laws.


Additional Information:


  • The bill would enable the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries to enforce penalties against employers violating the state’s child labor laws.
  • Under current Oregon legislation, the state agency must yield authority to the U.S. Department of Labor to decide whether to initiate investigations into reports of child labor violations.
  • Additionally, if the federal agency imposes penalties for violations, the state is prohibited from imposing its own penalties for the same violations, and any state penalties already paid by the employer must be refunded.
  • In 2023, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries refrained from investigating approximately 24 cases it referred to the federal Labor Department. Among these cases were reports of minors sustaining injuries while engaging in prohibited hazardous work.
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