New York State Department of Labor Will Develop New Child Labor Task Force, Create Employer Pledge Program to Protect Youth Workers, Establish Labor Trafficking Response Unit
Builds on Department's Existing Public Education Campaign to Inform Workers, Parents, and Employers
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced new efforts to combat child labor violations and labor trafficking in New York State. In light of a significant 68 percent spike in reports of child labor violations in 2022 in New York State, Governor Hochul and the New York State Department of Labor are strengthening their commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of youth workers. This follows the New York State Department of Labor’s recent campaign to educate young workers on their rights in the workplace. The New York State Department of Labor will also develop a new Child Labor Task Force, create an employer pledge program and expand the Division of Immigrant Policies and Affairs’ anti-trafficking work to establish a Labor Trafficking Response Unit.
“We all have a moral responsibility to protect our children and tackle exploitative labor practices,” Governor Hochul said. “For decades, New York State has led the nation in establishing child labor protections like limiting working hours on school nights and establishing minimum wage standards for minors. With the recent uptick in reports of child labor violations, these new measures will educate youth workers on their rights in the workplace and hold employers accountable, creating safer workplaces for all New Yorkers.”
New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “Protecting and empowering New York’s workers is central to what we do at the New York State Department of Labor, so we are determined to lead the nation in guarding our most vulnerable workers from exploitation. I’m grateful for Governor Hochul taking this matter seriously and immediately working to expand the efforts we began earlier this year. This new task force and our continued campaign will give us the tools to protect vulnerable workers who are just entering the world of work.”
Child Labor Task Force
Governor Hochul will launch a new interagency Child Labor Task Force to work directly with local schools and municipalities to ensure children, parents, and employers are educated on their rights and responsibilities in the workplace. This task force will be a collaborative effort with a variety of state-level partners, led by NYSDOL with participation from the New York State Police, New York State Education Department (NYSED), New York Department of State’s Office for New Americans, New York State Division of Human Rights, New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, New York State Office of Children and Family Services, and the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. NYSDOL will coordinate with other agencies in the task force to increase enforcement capabilities.
Extended Public Education Campaign
NYSDOL will extend the public education digital campaign that began in January 2023 to highlight important information on labor trafficking, as well as additional information about young workers’ rights, including the types of jobs that minors cannot work. NYSDOL will partner with NYSED to provide labor rights and labor trafficking information to schools to distribute to, in coordination with working papers.
NYSDOL will encourage employers in hospitality, restaurants, fast food, and physically-taxing industries like manufacturing, food processing, construction, farming, and landscaping to educate their employees on labor rights and the signs of labor trafficking. This will include encouraging employers to take a pledge to protect youth workers.
Labor Trafficking Response Unit
Labor trafficking, or forced labor, is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel an individual to work against their will. It is estimated that over 27 million people around the world are being exploited by human traffickers. Labor trafficking can affect adults and children from all walks of life, but a disproportionate number are minorities and people from marginalized and underserved communities.
To expand on New York State’s commitment to support and protect victims of labor trafficking, NYSDOL is growing to include a new Anti-Trafficking Unit under its Division of Immigrant Policies & Affairs. The new Anti-Trafficking Unit includes Labor Trafficking Response staff stationed in New York City and Albany, and it will ensure those most vulnerable to labor trafficking know the signs and resources available to help them if they become a victim.
Signs of labor trafficking include:
- Being told you must work to pay off a debt.
- Being promised a benefit like a green card or money that you don’t receive.
- Being told your employer will keep your passport or employment contract.
- Being threatened that someone will call the police or immigration if you do not work.
New Yorkers who believe that they or someone they know may be a victim of labor trafficking should contact NYSDOL at 877-466-9757 or email [email protected]. NYSDOL will never ask a worker’s immigration status.
New York State Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, "The dramatic increase in child labor law violations and recent reports of widespread abuses are outrageous and unacceptable. We must protect our children from dangerous and predatory working environments. I applaud Governor Hochul for tackling this issue head on by making sure our unsuspecting children are not taken advantage of. The New York Department of State's Office for New Americans stands at the ready and will work tirelessly to ensure our children are kept out of harm's way."
New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, “The exploitation of children in the labor force is not only abhorrent, but it also poses real security concerns for the surrounding community. I commend Governor Hochul for addressing these problems head-on and we look forward to working with our partners to create a safer New York for all.”
New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Commissioner and Co-Chair of the Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking Daniel W. Tietz said, “It is unconscionable that any business would exploit recently arrived immigrants, let alone children, and we will address this issue head on. We must redouble our efforts to identify potential trafficking victims and ensure they can access supportive, culturally appropriate, holistic services to meet their needs.”
New York State Education Department Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said, “The exploitation and abuse of immigrant children being forced into grueling, often dangerous jobs, must be stopped. I am grateful for the partnership with the Department of Labor on this important task force, and NYSED is committed to working with our schools and state agency partners to bring awareness to these injustices.”
New York State Division of Human Rights Commissioner Maria Imperial said, "Child labor is a human rights issue that deprives children of their innocence, dignity, and future. It is imperative that we safeguard the rights of our most vulnerable New Yorkers and continue to promote a state where everyone can fulfill their potential."
New York State Office of Children and Family Services Acting Commissioner Suzanne Miles-Gustave said, “Child labor severely impacts the mental, emotional and even physical development of the most precious and vulnerable among us. It’s made even worse by trafficking these young people against their will. This cuts at the very heart of what our agency seeks to protect, and that is the health, safety and well-being of all New York’s children. I applaud Governor Hochul and the Department of Labor for taking this important step to end these often overlooked crimes and we are proud to work alongside the Governor’s administration and our other agency partners to support victims of labor trafficking and spread awareness of this pervasive problem.”
New York State Police Acting Superintendent Steven A. Nigrelli said, “Violating our labor laws and taking advantage of any hard-working New Yorker is unacceptable, but preying upon the most vulnerable members of our communities, our youth, is deplorable, and we will not tolerate it. I applaud Governor Hochul and Commissioner Reardon for their swift efforts to combat the rise in child labor violations and labor trafficking, and the State Police is looking forward to working with them on holding those who break the law accountable and providing justice for the victims.”
NYSDOL Resources for Businesses and Young Workers
In order to prevent businesses from exceeding hour limitations for young workers because of worker shortages, NYSDOL will also continue promoting resources available to help businesses recruit employees to ensure they have an adequate workforce. Through NYSDOL’s Business Services, businesses can post job openings, learn about hiring incentives, and access free consultation services.
NYSDOL’s Division of Employment and Workforce Solutions includes a youth team to help young people entering the workforce. Guides for young New Yorkers are available online to educate them on what they need before filling out applications. The guides are broken down by ages 14-17 and 18-24, and cover important topics like getting working papers, proper identification, resume preparation, and more. Some important tips to remember for young workers and hiring businesses are:
- Workers aged 14 to 17 need an employment certificate, also called working papers, in order to hold a job in New York State.
- There are limits to the length of shifts, time of day and the number of hours minors can work depending on their age, and if school is in session.
- Minors are prohibited from night work and have different restrictions than adults.
- Minimum wage laws apply to all workers (unless otherwise noted), including minors.
- Minors may not perform certain tasks or occupations deemed dangerous. These tasks and occupations are prohibited at the state and/or the federal level.
Visit NYSDOL’s social media channels to see the new campaign, and check out NYSDOL’s Know Your Rights landing page for more information on child labor laws. For more information on human and labor trafficking, visit NYSDOL’s Human Trafficking webpage.