Summer is just around the corner, and with it will come the usual legions of teenage job-seekers looking to earn money for college and cars.  A new study by The Boston Globe [subscription required] found a sharp decrease in recent years of child labor violations pursued by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.  Even so, employers must still ensure that they are following the law when it comes to employing minors.

According to the Globe, Massachusetts child labor laws were bolstered in 2007 after several fatal on-the-job accidents involving teenagers.  These laws regulate the number of hours and times of day that minors can work, and also prohibit minors from working in certain high-risk jobs or using dangerous equipment.  With the tightening of the laws came an initial burst of increased enforcement activity.  Of the more than 3,500 citations issued since 2007, the Globe study found that two-thirds were issued between 2007 and 2009.  By contrast, less than 200 citations were issued last year.

Some have attributed the decrease in violations to greater awareness among employers about child labor laws.  Also, the poor economy has resulted in fewer minors in the workforce in recent years as more out-of-work adults take jobs traditionally held by teens.  Others have pointed to decreased enforcement activity by the AG’s office, noting that there hasn’t been a statewide sweep of shopping centers since 2008.  Also, about a quarter of the AG’s Fair Labor Division’s inspector positions (5 out of 19) were eliminated in 2011.

Even so, the AG’s office maintains that it continues to actively enforce child labor laws, including a recent $158,000 settlement with the Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant chain cited in the Globe’s story.  Also the AG’s office says that it plans to hire additional fair labor division inspectors this year.

Massachusetts employers planning on hiring minors this summer should consult with an attorney now to ensure that their policies comply with the state’s child labor laws.