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Roofer fined for teen’s death as bill filed to ease child labor restrictions

The Department of Labor on Wednesday charged Apex Roofing and Restoration LLC, an Alabama roofing contractor, with violating child labor laws by hiring a 15-year-old child who died on the job in 2019. It was announced that a fine of $1.00 was imposed.

The announcement came a day after Rep. Susan DuBose, a Hoover Republican, introduced a bill that would ease restrictions on work for 14- and 15-year-olds.

On July 1, 2019, a 15-year-old boy was working on a roof in Cullman when he fell approximately 50 feet to the ground. The child suffered multiple serious injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. It was the first day the teenager came to work.

The DOL's Wage and Hour Division investigated the case starting in 2019 and found that Apex Roofing violated child labor laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act's Hazardous Occupations Order.dangerous occupation order Minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from performing many jobs deemed too dangerous, such as roofing and working on or near roofs.

Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Luman said Apex Roofing caused the child's family to endure an “unnecessary” tragedy.

“Apex Roofing Endangered Lives By employing children to work on rooftops in violation of federal child labor laws. “It would be a shame to make our relatives and friends grieve an unnecessary and avoidable tragedy,” Luman said. “The Wage and Hour Division will continue to utilize all tools available to us to combat illegal child labor and hold violators accountable.”

DuBose's bill, HB102, would eliminate work eligibility requirements for 14- and 15-year-olds. A work eligibility form is a document that a minor receives from a school administrator or counselor to prove sufficient grades and attendance to obtain a job.

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The bill appears to accomplish one of the policy goals laid out in the Alabama Policy Institute's Alabama 2024 Blueprint: eliminating work status qualifications. API says the solution to Alabama's labor shortage problem is to allow more minors to enter the workforce, “particularly in the retail and service industries.”

“Learning new skills and building a strong work ethic from an early age is not only good for Alabama's children, it can provide additional labor to the state's workforce and improve the lives of all citizens. ”, the API writes. “Whether a 14- or 15-year-old child is mature and responsible enough to work while attending school should be determined by the child and his or her parents, not the school administrator.”

API's policy points and the DuBose bill are in line with a national strategy that Republicans have followed across the country to eliminate child labor protections.

If passed, DuBose's bill would go into effect on June 1.

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