Monday, October 29, 2007

Gap sweatshop allegations highlights child labor issues

I heard about the Gap sweatshop allegations (Gap: Report of kids' sweatshop "deeply disturbing") on the news while I was eating dinner last night. After watching video of children at work in a New Delhi sweatshop, Gap President Marka Hansen said, "It's deeply, deeply disturbing to all of us. I feel violated and I feel very upset and angry with our vendor and the subcontractor who made this very, very, very unwise decision."

In American workplaces, the Fair Labor Standards Act sets wage, hours worked, and safety requirements for individuals under age 18 . The rules vary depending upon the age of the minor, the job involved, and the state in which the work is performed. In Ohio, for example, children under 16 are permitted only to work 3 hours per school day and 18 hours per school week. Their hours are capped at 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week otherwise. Generally, those same children cannot work later than 7 p.m. (or 9 p.m. 6/1 through 9/1 and during school holidays of 5 days or more). 16 and 17-year-olds have no limits on how many hours they can work per day or per week, but they are prohibited from working after 11 p.m. and before 7 a.m. on schooldays (or 6 a.m. if not working the night before). The FLSA also prohibits anyone under 18 from working a job that is considered hazardous or involves the operation of a motor vehicle. As one could imagine, the Department of Labor takes child labor violations very seriously, and the consequences for violations can be severe, not to mention the potential PR nightmare. Just ask Marka Hansen.

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