State official talks child labor with Hoover Chamber committee
Published 4:06 pm Thursday, February 4, 2016
By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer
HOOVER—A job can be a very valuable experience for a teenager, but in order to employ minors, there are a number of rules and regulations businesses must follow. On Feb. 4, Alabama Department of Labor Child Labor Enforcement Supervisor Robin Wilburn spoke to the Hoover Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee about the laws governing child labor.
“We want the kids working, it teaches them a lot of responsibility,” Wilburn said. “But over the years, there have been a lot of injuries and deaths.”
Wilburn and two other officers oversee all child labor in Alabama. The job entails following up on tips and inspecting businesses to ensure all child labor laws are being followed and the proper paper records are kept.
Laws include the number of hours minors are allowed to work, how late minors can work and what kind of work they are allowed to do.
“Everybody has to follow the same law, nobody gets a pass,” Wilburn said.
Wilburn said a common violation is employment of underage minors. Underage applies to any child under 14, and employment includes any type of work benefitting the business. This can become particularly problematic in businesses where parents often bring children to work.
“Lots of people like to bring their kids to work, and that’s OK when they’re just sitting there or doing homework,” Wilburn said. “If they do something that’s helping the business, that’s considered work.”
Not having a firm grasp of the child labor laws also leads to many violations, Wilburn said.
“I’ve tried to get the law out there…for most employers it’s very basic,” Wilburn said, noting recent legislation has simplified the process for hiring minors.
Businesses must be licensed in order to employ minors. Alabama offers two $15 licenses online, one allowing a business to employ 14- and 15-year-olds and one allowing employment of 16- and 17-year-olds. Each license can be applied for, granted and printed from the computer.
Required informational posters and additional resources are also available at Labor.alabama.gov/uc/childlabor/.
“Our job is to enforce the laws, we do have a bad job sometimes,” Wilburn said. “If we can educate and prevent violations, that’s what we want to do.”