Central Florida sees spike in child labor cases

ORLANDO, Fla. — Department of Labor (DoL) investigators say Central Florida – like much of the nation – is seeing a spike in cases of child labor, resulting in businesses paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

The cases range in scale and seriousness, involving many different industries and situations. Investigators said many involve younger teens working during school hours or too many hours on school days and working with dangerous equipment.


Since 2015, data released by the department showed investigators have worked on cases involving 900 children and teenagers in the state of Florida, resulting in $900,000 in fines.

However, one of Central Florida’s top investigators said most cases have been concentrated in the years following the pandemic.

“From [fiscal years] 2020 until 2022, we have seen more child labor that we had seen from 2011 to 2020,” DoL District Director Wildalí De Jesús explained.

Read: Report: 10-year-old children were found working at a Louisville McDonald’s until 2 a.m.

In recent years, investigators busted a Longwood landscape supply warehouse for allowing a 13-year-old to drive a forklift and a Winter Park bakery for allowing a 13-year-old to operate a bread slicer. They also said the teenager at the bakery was an unpaid “volunteer.”

De Jesús recalled one of the most egregious cases she has seen: when a 15-year-old employed as a roofer fell off an Orlando townhouse building in early 2022, suffering brain and spine injuries.

Read: Boy’s lemonade stand reported to Alabama Department of Labor

“We’re seeing a trend of much younger children… because sometimes the children don’t know what they’re supposed to do or not supposed to do,” she said. “A lot of times parents don’t know either. They may assume that it’s safe or that [the child is] working the correct hours and that there’s no limitations, but there are.”

She added that some of the cases involved children working for their parents or other family members, and the department doesn’t track the immigration status of the children.

Read: Florida Chick-fil-A fined more than $12K for child labor violations

The department has put out a guide to let parents and business owners know what acceptable practices are. Generally, 14- and 15-year-olds cannot work more than eight hours in a day, during school or after 9 p.m. There are tighter restrictions in place on school days.

Minors of all ages cannot work dangerous jobs, with additional restrictions placed on younger teens.

The department says most violations happen in the amusement, construction, retail and food service industries.

DoL staff said all three companies paid the fines levied at them. None of the companies responded to WFTV’s request for comment.

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