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With summer gigs looming, younger workers get a 'bill of rights'


Just ahead of teens starting their summer jobs, Governor Kathy Hochul announced a set of protections meant to ensure that younger workers get a fair shake. 

The Youth Workers Bill of Rights, which the governor unveiled last week, is designed to educate young workers about child labor laws and to protect them in the workplace. The governor tasked the state Education Department, along with the Labor Department, to create what her office called “a vital resource” to combat a surge in child labor violations. The Labor Department will distribute the document as a print pocket guide to students receiving their working papers, as well as in the form of a poster to hang in schools and also available online, according to an announcement from the governor’s office.

“Every worker in our state deserves a fair, safe work environment, especially our young people,” Governor Hochul said in a statement. “My administration is taking action to ensure that our youngest workers feel empowered, protected, and well-informed, and by fulfilling my State of the State commitment to creating our first-ever Youth Workers Bill of Rights, we are continuing to make strides toward making New York the safest and most worker-friendly state in the nation.”

The document, as well as DOL’s Youth Worker Information Hub, informs workers under the age of 18 about the hours they are permitted to work, the minimum wage they are entitled to and prohibited occupations for younger workers. It also lets them know they have the right to report workplace violations.

The bill of rights was created in response to a spike in reports of child labor violations, which rose 68 percent statewide in 2022, according to the state Department of Labor. There were 464 such cases documented across the state, with the majority of violations related to wage underpayment, excessive hours of work and prohibited employment. The federal Department of Labor found that child labor law violations and injuries have increased nationwide since the pandemic.

‘Valuable members of the workforce’

In response to the surge, the state established a child labor task force in March 2023 and launched an employer pledge program in which businesses affirm that they will educate workers who are underage about their rights and report any child labor violations to the task force.

As of last year, the DOL’s labor standards team has conducted 300 investigations at workplaces employing workers under 18, including retail and food service establishments. The team found that there were issues related to the posting of hours and employees working prohibited hours.

“Governor Hochul's directive to NYSDOL to create and distribute the Youth Workers Bill of Rights underscores her unwavering commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of New York State's youth workforce,” Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said in a statement. “This comprehensive document educates young people about their rights in the workplace and equips them with the knowledge and tools to address violations of their labor rights effectively. By outlining clear guidelines and standards, the Youth Workers Bill of Rights aims to empower young workers and raise awareness about their rights as valuable members of the workforce.”

Education Commissioner Betty Rosa added, “Knowledge is power; so, knowing your rights and how to enforce them will benefit working students throughout the state.”

The governor also recently announced that the state will increase funding by nearly $8 million for the Summer Youth Employment Program in order to help low-income New Yorkers between the ages of 14 and 20 find jobs.


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