North Carolina Child Farmworkers at Risk

Labor laws are intended to protect workers from harsh or dangerous conditions and to ensure that workers’ have rights to protect their safety and welfare. Despite the known dangers of farm work, children throughout North Carolina continue face grave dangers, long hours and unsafe work conditions. Many of these children are not given the same protections due to loopholes in labor law.

Though Gov. Pat McCrory has set aside “Farm Health and Safety Week” in North Carolina, there are a number of hazards faced by child farmworkers that must be addressed by legislators. The governor acknowledges that the young workers are at a significant risk of injury. Our Spartanburg workers’ compensation attorneys are dedicated to helping all workers protect their rights and recover financial support for lost wages and medical costs related to an accident or illness. We are dedicated to protecting workers’ rights throughout the region and stay abreast of labor issues impacting North Carolina residents and communities.

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Recent reports indicate that some workers, as young as 12, begin working 10 hour days as farmworkers. Their job duties may include planting seeds, pulling tops of tobacco plants and harvesting new crops. Many child farmworkers have reported rashes and other skin problems related to chemical exposure. In addition to surface exposure, children are also at risk because their bodies are still in development. Long-term exposure or effects of chemical exposure may lead to cancers, reproductive health issues and neurological problems.

Throughout North Carolina, there are thousands of children working long hours on commercial farms. Most child farmworkers are Latino and come from low-income families. Their parents may be undocumented migrants; however, the children are U.S. citizens. In a number of these families, parents depend on their children for subsidizing the family income.

These children face a number of occupational hazards every day, using sharp tools, operating cumbersome machinery, and lifting heavy loads. Many of these child farm workers are not given the protective equipment they need to prevent exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides. Due to a labor law loophole, children can work in the agricultural industry at younger ages and for longer hours. There is no minimum age for children work on small farms with the permission of their parents. Children must be only 12 to start working on large commercial farms.

Child advocacy and worker rights advocates have urged the federal government and Congress to take action against commercial farms that exploit child farmworkers. A North Carolina bill was intended to prevent such abuses, making it illegal to hire children under the age of 14 to work in agricultural jobs. Even with an exception for children on family farms the bill never passed.

Despite the declaration of “Farm Health and Safety Week,” children farmworkers are at a great risk of injury, chemical exposure and potentially wrongful death. There are no federal or state laws in place to protect these young workers. Workers’ compensation allows workers to collect compensation after an accident or involving a work-related illness. The program is intended to streamline benefits and does not require that workers prove fault. Any workers, including children, are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

If you have been denied workers’ compensation or need an advocate to help you file a claim, contact the Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

More Blog Entries

Independent Contractor Workers’ Comp and Third-Party Claims, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, May 20, 2013

New Legislation Aims to Bolster OSHA Role in Worker Safety, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, May 25, 2013

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