By  on June 13, 2007

WASHINGTON — The House, by voice vote, passed a bill Tuesday directing the Secretary of Labor to increase the maximum penalty for child labor violations leading to death or serious injury to $50,000 from $11,000. A companion bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D., Calif.), who proposed the measure with five co-sponsors to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, said in a statement that it would provide "an additional enforcement tool to address the most serious labor law violations."

The legislation would also double to $100,000 per violation the penalty for "repeat or willful" actions leading to the death or injury of a minor. The bill leaves the imposition of the increased penalties to the discretion of the Labor Secretary.

The Labor Department requested the legislation and sought support from members of Congress, a Woolsey spokesman said. The department has detailed guidelines on what constitutes a child labor violation based on industries and job functions.

For example, a $50,000 penalty could be imposed if a 14-year-old was seriously injured or killed when a forklift truck tipped over on the child while he or she was operating it in a store, according to a fact sheet from the House Committee on Education and Labor.

The committee said workers under the age of 18 can operate a forklift in a retail establishment, but it is a prohibited activity for all other industries.

In making the case for the bill, the committee cited a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimate that 230,000 people under the age of 18 sustain workplace injuries each year, and 60 to 70 die from occupational injuries.

"It is a fairly straightforward proposal and goes after the most egregious cases of child labor violations," said Rob Green, vice president for government and political affairs at the National Retail Federation.

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