Did Babies Violate Child Labor Laws?
An Associated Press report that speculated that the filmmakers behind the documentary Babies may have violated California child labor laws by including a California infant as one of the stars has been blasted by James Schamus, the head of Focus Features, which is releasing the movie. "Although Focus was not involved in the actual filming of Babies , we have spoken at length with the filmmakers and with Hattie's family, as well as with labor law experts, and we can state categorically that the Associated Press's irresponsible conjectures and speculations about California's child labor laws and their application to the film are just that," Schamus said. In its lede, the A.P. story observed, "California law requires it Infants need a doctor's note and legal permits before they can be stars. They're only allowed on camera for 20 minutes a day. They must be accompanied by both a nurse and studio teacher both paid for by the producers. The babies also need to be at least 15 days old." But in a follow-up report that credited the Today show staff and wire services, MSNBC.com on Thursday quoted Anthony J. Oncidi, an expert on California employment law, as saying, "These rules apply to minors who have been hired to work as employees. That's not what we have here. Hattie was not an 'employee' in any sense of the word. The producers simply captured on film Hattie's wonderment as she interacted with the world around her."