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The Labor Commission of Delaware was created in 1915 to replace the abolished Delaware Child Labor Commission. Designed primarily to protect the rights of minors and females, this Commission consisted of five members including one “ bona fide “resident from each county and two “ bona fide “ residents from the state at large; each served a term of five years without salary. Commissioners had the power to appoint officials or employees to enforce any laws relating to the conditions, regulation or inspection of labor of minor children, or the condition, regulation or inspection of labor of females, including State Child Labor Inspector and his/her assistant, the inspector of Female Labor. 1 These inspectors enforced laws such as: no child under the age of fourteen years is permitted to work in any establishment or in any occupation except those employed on farms or in any domestic service in private homes; 2 and no child under the age of fifteen shall operate any dangerous machinery such as circular saws, washing or grinding or mixing devices, and passenger elevators or lifts, etc. In short, children were forbidden to work in any occupation “ dangerous to the life or limb or injurious to the health or morals “ as determined by the Labor Commission. 3 Slight changes were made in the laws governing child labor in 1923 and 1955 but their goal remained the same. Regarding females, the inspectors were to ensure that where fifteen or less females were employed at least one water closet or privy was provided, or one for every twenty – five persons. The facilities had to be well lit, sanitary and free from obscene graffiti. The Labor Commission had the power to determine the definition of the above terms, and to adopt and publish suitable rules and regulations for effectively carrying out the provisions of this law. If an institution failed subscribe to these regulations, the inspectors had the power to initiate prosecutions for the violations. The accused could appeal to the Labor Commission, and their decision could be appealed to the Court of General Sessions. 4
In addition, the Labor Commission was responsible for the formulation of printed certificates and papers required in the issuing of employment certificates and the abstracts of the law relating to the hours of child labor and the conditions and hours of females. 5 Two types of employment certificates could be issued: (1) General – entitled the child, fourteen to sixteen years, to work the entire year. (2) Provisional – entitled the boy, twelve and up, and the girl, fourteen and up, to work at occupations ( which the Labor Commission of Delaware from time to time determined and declared to be not dangerous ) during the entire year except such time when the child was required to attend school. 6 A badge was issued and was to be worn conspicuously by those minors permitted to work, in addition to maintaining regular school attendance required by law. Failure to wear the badge could mean cancellation of the person’s certificate. 7 Up to the age of eighteen years a certificate of age was issued to every minor by the Labor Commission and was to be kept on file by the employer and subject to inspection at any time. 8 If a child failed to qualify for a certificate but could prove that employment was necessary for the support of itself or its family, the chairman of the Labor Commission, upon recommendation of the State Child Labor Inspector, could issue a permit. 9
The Division against discrimination, under the jurisdiction of the Labor Commission, had the power to enforce laws protecting the rights of minorities. Employers who refused to hire, employ, license, compensate; or who barred, or who barred, or discharged from employment any individual because of race, creed, color, or national origin, or because such individual was between 45 and 65 years of age were subject to prosecution. The Division was empowered to make and enforce the rules and regulations necessary to effectuate the purposes of this act. 10 The Labor Commission was required to submit an annual report of its activities and expenditures to the Governor. 11
In 1961, The General Assembly passed an act that abolished the Labor Commission and transferred all of its powers and duties to a newly created Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. 12
1. D.L. 1915, ch. 66, Revised Code ch. 38, sec.1 – 3, 6; ch. 220.
2. D.L. 1917, ch. 232, 3144 sec . 44.
3. D.L. 1917, ch. 232, 3145 sec. 45.
4. D.L. 1921, ch. 187, sec. 8.
5. D.L. 1915, ch. 66, Revised code ch. 38, sec. 6 .
6. D.L. 1955, ch. 466, 3151 sec. 51.
7. D.L. 1923, ch. 204, 3160 3160 sec. e, d, f.
8. D.L. 1957 , 39.
9. D.L. 1917, ch. 232, 3161 sec. 61.
10. D.L. 1959, ch. 337, sec. 1 and 2.
11. D.L. 1915, ch. 66, Revised Code ch. 38, 990 sec. 4 .
12. D.L. 1961, ch. 259.
jmm / February 3, 1988 ; February 10, 1988 ; February 11, 1988