Child Labor Laws and Jon & Kate Plus 8

June 1, 2009

Lately, everywhere you look you can find news about “Jon and Kate Plus 8” from Berks County. It is one of the top stories on WGAL’s website today and the Sunday News featured a story on the front page about their former home in Lancaster County. While I tend to tire of the inundation of celebrity news these days, I did find the issue of PA Child Labor Laws somewhat interesting. I will not add to the debate with a long commentary about the Gosselin’s personal lives or the show’s ratings, however, because of the local interest I did take a moment to pull up Pennsylvania’s Child Labor Laws. The PA Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) is reportedly investigating a complaint and many mainstream and tabloid news organizations anxiously await its conclusion. In Pennsylvania, the minimum age for employment in theater, modeling and television is seven. Minors and infants may be in the cast of a motion picture if a special permit is obtained. Reality TV was nonexistent when our child labor laws were adopted so it will be interesting to see if they conclude that the Gosselin’s home is a “set” and the children are “performers”. Section 7.1 of the PA Child Labor Law Act is rather limited even for more traditional media productions. Contrast the California Child Labor Law which has a lengthy Entertainment Section with specific guidelines for children of different ages. With the current popularity of Reality TV, states may need to update or clarify Child Labor Laws to specifically include or exempt these types of productions.