KENNESAW, Georgia. Worker’s compensation lawyers see firsthand how dangerous certain occupations can be. Employees can make worker’s compensation claims for a range of injuries, from minor cuts and scrapes to serious injuries like amputations. Yet, thanks to the Fair Labor Standards Act, we don’t often see children hurt on the job. That’s because, depending on the industry, it’s illegal to hire a child under age 14, and in many industries, children must be at least 16 to work.
Yet, a recent report by the Atlantic suggests that children as young as 12 may be working on America’s tobacco farms. The consequences for these children and the long days of back-breaking labor is tragic. How do farmers get around Fair Labor Standards requirements? According to the Atlantic, small farms can hire children at any age. In some small family farms, the family relies on the whole family working. But, even on big tobacco farms, children as young as 12 are permitted to work with parental permission.
Part of the problem has to do with a lack of clear standards for farm workers in the U.S. Farm workers don’t benefit from collective bargaining rights that virtually every other industry enjoys and many farm workers are not entitled to overtime pay.
How many child workers might be working in America’s fields? One advocacy group estimates that the number may be as high as 400,000 child workers. Many of these children are migrant workers. Yet, the children are hard to track, because they are largely paid in cash and they often don’t even know who owns the farm they are working on. When children suffer injuries while on the job, they may also have difficulty getting the medical care they need and deserve. Their parents may be unable to afford health insurance, they may be denied worker’s compensation claims (or may not know that they could be entitled to make a claim), and they may not be able to afford the up-front costs of care.
Field work is hard labor and it also comes with hazards. Children and adults who work in fields can be exposed to dangerous pesticides that can impact their health long into the future. Even if farms provide safety equipment, children may not be trained or required to use it. Children may be asked to carry the same workloads as adults, which can also put added strain.
The situation is disturbing and until the government steps in, children will likely continue to be working on farms.
If you’ve been injured on the job or know someone who has been hurt, protect your rights. The Georgia State Board of Worker’s Compensation notes that workers can file a claim with the board. However, sometimes worker’s claims are denied. If your claim has been denied or if you believe you may be entitled to more money than you are currently receiving, contact the worker’s compensation lawyers at Imbriale Injury Law in Kennesaw, Georgia. Our firm handles a range of personal injury claims and may be able to help you. You may only have a limited amount of time to seek damages under the law, so visit Imbriale Injury Law today.