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April 24, 2024

House Advances Legislation to Increase Penalties for Child Labor Violations

DENVER, CO –  The House today passed legislation on a preliminary vote to ramp up financial penalties for businesses that violate child labor laws. 

“Over the years, Colorado has made important progress to improve child labor laws - but we must ensure violators are held accountable for their actions,” said Rep. Sheila Lieder, D-Littleton. “Under current law, businesses face small or non-existent fines for child labor violations that could be putting our youth at risk. Our bill would significantly increase financial penalties to hold bad actors accountable, and importantly, keep our youth safe. We’re also committed to protecting those who speak out about child labor violations from retaliation, and this bill sets up guidelines to ensure those whistleblowers are protected.” 

“We need to ensure our state’s child labor laws are working as intended – the health and safety of our youth depends on it,” said Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder. “This bill encourages violation reporting, improves transparency around enforcement measures, and increases penalties for violations of these common sense protections. Outlined in the bill are additional whistleblower protections to keep those who report child labor violations safe from retaliation. At the end of the day, we need to ensure our businesses are operating lawfully and our youth is protected, and this bill brings us closer to that important goal.” 

HB24-1095 would update the Colorado Youth Employment Opportunity Act of 1971 and strengthen the penalty structure. Under current law, first-time child labor law violators face no fines or fines of only a few hundred dollars. This bill would raise total employer liability to $750 for first-time offenses and $10,000 for willful or repeated offenses. HB24-1095 would also remove legal disincentives that keep victims of child labor violations from reporting and protect child workers from employer retaliation.

Additionally, this bill would  strengthen employer transparency by requiring the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) to publish child labor violations or determinations. CDLE must issue a written notice to an employer with a description of penalties and damages owed if the act is violated. Under this bill, all fine revenue will be deposited into the Wage Theft Enforcement Fund, which distributes payments owed to Colorado employees who have filed claims of wage theft. 

Representative Lieder has championed important bills to strengthen worker protections and labor laws in Colorado. This includes HB23-1196, which amended language in the Colorado Youth Employment Opportunity Act of 1971 to expand the legal action that a child, or a parent of a child, can take to hold a company accountable for breaking the law. 

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