Federal law closely regulates employment of minors, imposing special restrictions on the terms and conditions of employment and additional administrative duties on employers. Employers must be especially careful to strictly comply with these laws because violators are subject to stiff fines.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) child labor provisions are intended to ensure that children have the opportunity to obtain an education and prevent them from being employed in occupations and under conditions that may be harmful to their health or well-being.
To meet these goals, the FLSA includes restrictions on hours of work for minors under 16 and prohibits employers from hiring minors in hazardous occupations. Different restrictions apply to agricultural and nonagricultural employment.
For work other than farming, the legal hours of work and degree of hazard are as follows:
For farming work, the permissible hours and degree of hazard are as follows:
Employment of minors is prohibited in occupations that are potentially hazardous or detrimental to the minor’s health. Whether an occupation is considered hazardous sometimes depends on the age of the minor.
All minors are prohibited from working in occupations such as:
In addition to those activities prohibited from all minors, employees under the age of 16 are prohibited from working in additional occupations, including:
Minors under 16 are permitted to perform non-hazardous work such as office work in these industries.
Minor employees who are under 17 years of age may not drive automobiles or trucks on public roadways. However, employees who are 17 years of age or older may drive automobiles or trucks on public roadways if:
Driving is considered “occasional” and “incidental” when it involves no more than one‑third of an employee’s workday or no more than 20% of any workweek.
Employers who violate the child labor laws may be fined by the DOL up to $13,072 per worker for each violation of the child labor provisions. Further, employers may be fined $59,413 for each violation that causes the death or serious injury of a minor employee; such penalty may be doubled, up to $118,826, if the violation is determined to be willful or repeated. The FLSA also provides for criminal fines of up to $10,000 upon conviction for a willful violation, with additionally penalties imposed for repeat violations. For a second conviction for a willful violation, the FLSA provides for a fine of not more than $10,000 and imprisonment for up to six months or both.
Size of employer, the seriousness of the violation and the likelihood that the employer will comply with the law in the future are taken into account in determining the amount of a fine.
The federal government does not require work permits or proof-of-age certificates for a minor to be employed. Many states, however, do require them for workers of certain ages. The DOL will issue age certificates if the minor employee's state does not issue them or if the minor is requested by his or her employer to provide one. However, the vast majority of age certificates are issued by states.
The purpose of these certificates is to protect the employer from prosecution for employing an under-aged worker. The possession of an age certificate constitutes a good faith effort to comply with minimum age requirements.
Because penalties are severe for child labor violations, employers should familiarize themselves with all relevant federal laws prior to employing a minor.
Policies and Forms
Chapter 09: Child labor