State:

National
What is child labor? The child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibit employers from hiring minors (individuals under the age of 18) to work at dangerous occupations, for an excessive number of hours, and at unsuitable times of the day or night. States also have child labor laws and when state and federal laws differ, the stricter law applies. There are separate rules for minors under 18, under 16, and under 14 years of age, both on the number of hours and times of the day and year they may work, as well as the types of work that they are allowed to perform. In addition, there are rules on proof of age, minors driving motor vehicles, minimum wage rates, children working in agriculture, and work under federal contracts. Severe penalties may be imposed on employers that violate child labor laws. Employers are prohibited from retaliating or otherwise discriminating against an employee who files a complaint or participates in a legal proceeding under the Act.
YouthRules! is an initiative by the federal government to promote positive and safe work experiences for teens by distributing information about young workers to youth, parents, employers, and educators. Components of the initiative include a website, printed materials, outreach events, training seminars, and partnering activities. Early work experiences can provide great opportunities for teens to learn important work skills. Federal and state rules regarding young workers attempt to strike a balance between ensuring sufficient time for educational opportunities and allowing appropriate work experiences.
The YouthRules! Web page is a gateway providing quick access to information about federal and state labor laws that apply to young workers. The Web page includes information designed to educate teens on what the rules are, as well as to provide information for parents, educators, and employers (http://www.youthrules.dol.gov/index.htm).
Also, as part of the YouthRules! initiative, the Department of Labor (DOL) and its partners develop and distribute informational materials, develop curricula for educators, provide training on the federal and state rules governing young workers, increase awareness through public service announcements, and develop other tools designed to increase compliance with federal and state laws.
Only the following occupations are open to children under 14 years of age:
Agriculture. Nonhazardous agricultural jobs are open to children over 12 if they have written parental consent and do not work during school hours. If no 12-year-old workers are available, an employer can apply for a waiver from the DOL to allow children over 10 to work in hand-harvesting jobs. However, they can work for no more than 8 weeks per year and only if there is no risk of adverse health effects resulting from the use of pesticides.
Newspaper delivery. There is no federal age restriction applicable to newspaper carriers who deliver to subscribers and who sell newspapers on the street. However, the deliveries must be to individual subscribers or consumers and not to drop stations, newsstands, or distribution centers.
Acting and performing. Actors and performers are exempt from federal child labor laws, but most states regulate their employment.
Employment by parent. Parents may employ their own children in any occupation except manufacturing, mining, and other occupations where the minimum age requirement is 18 years.
Children who are under the age of 16 are generally excluded from all manufacturing, mining, processing, public messenger, or machine-tending work. They are also excluded from transportation, warehouse work, construction, communications, and public utility occupations, except for office or sales work in connection with these. They are also prohibited from operating a motor vehicle or providing service as a helper on a motor vehicle. They may not perform any job on the “hazardous” list applying to minors under the age of 18.
There is a minimum age of 16 for employment in agriculture during school hours except where the worker is employed by his or her parent.
Children who are 14 and 15 years old may do the following types of work:
• Office and clerical work, including the operation of office machines.
• Work of an intellectual or artistically creative nature such as, but not limited to, computer programming, the writing of software, teaching or performing as a tutor, serving as a peer counselor or teacher’s assistant, singing, playing a musical instrument, and drawing. Artistically creative work is limited to work in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.
• Cooking with electric or gas grills (but not over an open flame) or with deep fryers that automatically lower and raise the baskets to and from the hot oil.
• Cashiering, selling, modeling, art work, work in advertising departments, window trimming, and comparative shopping.
• Price-marking and tagging by hand or machine, assembling orders, packing, and shelving.
• Bagging and carrying out customers’ orders.
• Errand and delivery work by foot, bicycle, and public transportation.
• Cleanup work, including the use of vacuum cleaners and floor waxers, and the maintenance of grounds, but not including the use of power-driven mowers, cutters, trimmers, edgers, or similar equipment.
• Kitchen work, preparing and serving food. Permitted machines include, but are not limited to, dishwashers, toasters, dumbwaiters, popcorn poppers, milk shake blenders, coffee grinders, automatic coffee machines, devices used to maintain the temperature of prepared foods (such as warmers, steam tables, and heat lamps), and microwave ovens that do not warm above 140°F. Minors are permitted to clean kitchen equipment (not otherwise prohibited), remove oil or grease filters, pour oil or grease through filters, and move receptacles containing hot grease or hot oil, but only when the equipment, surfaces, containers, and liquids do not exceed a temperature of 100°F. Minors are also permitted to occasionally enter freezers momentarily to retrieve items in conjunction with restocking or food preparation.
• Cleaning vegetables and fruits, and the wrapping, sealing, labeling, weighing, pricing, and stocking of items, including vegetables, fruits, and meats, when performed in areas physically separate from a freezer or meat cooler.
• The loading onto and unloading from motor vehicles light, non-power-driven, hand tools, and personal protective equipment that the minor will use as part of his or her employment at the worksite and personal items such as a backpack, a lunch box, or a coat that the minor is permitted to take to the worksite. Such light tools would include, but are not limited to, rakes, handheld clippers, shovels, and brooms. Light tools would not include items like trash, sales kits, promotion items or items for sale, lawn mowers, or other power-driven lawn maintenance equipment. The minors would not be permitted to load or unload safety equipment such as barriers, cones, or signage.
• Inside or outside places of business where machinery is used to process wood products (for 14- or 15-year-olds who by statute or judicial order are exempt from compulsory school attendance beyond the eighth grade) if the youth is supervised by an adult relative or an adult member of the same religious sect or division, does not operate or assist in the operation of power-driven woodworking machines, is protected from wood particles or other flying debris within the workplace by a barrier, and is required to use, and uses, personal protective equipment to prevent exposure to excessive levels of noise and sawdust.
• Work in connection with cars and trucks if limited to dispensing gasoline and oil, courtesy service, car cleaning, washing and polishing by hand; but not including work involving the use of pits, racks, or lifting apparatus, or involving the inflation of any tire mounted on a rim equipped with a removable retaining ring.
• Certain work in connection with riding inside passenger compartments of motor vehicles. Each minor riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle must have his or her own seat in the passenger compartment and wear a seatbelt.
Lifeguard work allowed for minors age 15. The employment of 15-year-olds (but not 14-year-olds) as lifeguards and swimming instructors is permitted at traditional swimming pools and water amusement parks (but not including the elevated areas of power-driven water slides), when the minors have been trained and certified by the American Red Cross, or a similar certifying organization, in aquatics and water safety. This rule does not permit working as a lifeguard or swimming instructor at natural environment swimming facilities, such as rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, quarries, reservoirs, wharfs, piers, canals, or oceanside beaches.
Minors 14 and 15 years old may not work in the following occupations, which is not an exhaustive list:
• Most work in manufacturing, mining, or processing occupations.
• Work deemed hazardous for the employment of minors between the ages of 16 and 18 or detrimental to their health or well-being.
• Occupations that involve operating, tending, setting up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling, or repairing hoisting apparatus.
• Work performed in or about boiler or engine rooms or in connection with the maintenance or repair of the establishment, machines, or equipment.
• Occupations that involve operating, tending, setting up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling, or repairing any power-driven machinery including, but not limited to, lawn mowers, golf carts, all-terrain vehicles, trimmers, cutters, weed-eaters, edgers, food slicers, food grinders, food choppers, food processors, food cutters, and food mixers. Youth 14 and 15 years of age may operate certain office equipment, vacuum cleaners, and floor waxers.
• The operation of motor vehicles.
• Outside window washing that involves working from window sills, and all work requiring the use of ladders, scaffolds, or their substitutes.
• Most baking and cooking activities.
• Work in freezers and meat coolers and work in the preparation of meats for sale. Minors may enter freezers only momentarily to retrieve items.
• Youth peddling, which entails the selling of goods or services to customers at locations other than the youth employer’s establishment, such as the customers’ residences or places of business, or public places such as street corners and public transportation stations. Prohibited activities associated with youth peddling not only include the attempt to make a sale or the actual consummation of a sale, but also the preparatory and concluding tasks normally performed by a youth peddler in conjunction with his or her sales, such as the loading and unloading of vans or other motor vehicles, the stocking and restocking of sales kits and trays, the exchanging of cash and checks with the employer, and the transportation of minors to and from the various sales areas by the employer. Prohibited youth peddling also includes such promotion activities as the holding, wearing, or waving of signs, merchandise, costumes, sandwich boards, or placards in order to attract potential customers, except when performed inside of, or directly in front of, the employer’s business providing the product, service, or event being advertised. (Exceptions: Minors may conduct sales for their employers on property controlled by the employer that is outside, but may properly be considered part of the employer’s establishment, such as garden centers, sidewalk sales, and parking lot sales. Minors may also sell goods or services as volunteers and without compensation on behalf of certain organizations, such as the Girl Scouts.)
• Loading and unloading of goods or property onto or from motor vehicles, railroad cars, or conveyors.
• Catching and cooping of poultry in preparation for transport or for market.
• Public messenger service
• Occupations in connection with the transportation of persons or property by rail, highway, air, water, pipeline, or other means; warehousing and storage; communications and public utilities; and construction. (Office or sales work in these industries is allowed if it does not involve the performance of any duties on trains, motor vehicles, aircraft, vessels, or other media of transportation or at the actual site of construction operations.)
No employee under 17 years of age may drive a motor vehicle on public roads as part of his or her job if that employment is subject to the FLSA. Minors 17 years of age may drive on public roadways as part of their employment, but only if all of the following requirements are met:
• The driving is limited to daylight hours.
• The 17-year-old holds a state license valid for the type of driving involved in the job performed.
• The 17-year-old has successfully completed a state-approved driver education course and has no record of any moving violations at the time of hire.
• The automobile or truck does not exceed 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.
• The automobile or truck is equipped with a seat belt for the driver and any passengers, and the employer has instructed the youth that the seat belts must be used when driving the vehicle.
• The driving is only occasional and incidental to the 17-year-old's employment. This means that the youth may spend no more than one-third of his or her workday and no more than 20 percent of his or her work time in any workweek driving.
In addition, the driving may not involve:
• Towing vehicles
• Any other vehicle than an automobile or truck (e.g., bus, motorcycle, ATVs, golf cart)
• Route deliveries or route sales
• Transportation for hire of property, goods, or passengers
• Urgent, time-sensitive deliveries (Urgent, time-sensitive deliveries are trips that, because of such factors as customers' satisfaction, the rapid deterioration of the quality or change in temperature of the product, and/or economic incentives, are subject to timelines, schedules, and/or turnaround times that might impel the driver to hurry in the completion of the delivery. Prohibited trips would include, but are not limited to, the delivery of pizzas and prepared foods to the customer; the delivery of materials under a deadline (such as deposits to a bank at closing); and the shuttling of passengers to and from transportation depots to meet transport schedules. Urgent, time-sensitive deliveries would not depend on the delivery's points of origin and termination and would include the delivery of people and things to the employer's place of business as well as from that business to some other location.)
• Transporting more than three passengers, including employees of the employer
• Driving beyond a 30-mile radius from the youth’s place of employment
• More than two trips away from the primary place of employment in any single day to deliver the employer’s goods to a customer (other than urgent, time-sensitive deliveries that are prohibited)
• More than two trips away from the primary place of employment in any single day to transport passengers, other than employees of the employer
Even though DOL does not require recordkeeping, employers have the burden of proving that they have met the requirements for on-the-job driving by 17- year-old employees. DOL suggests that employers keep a copy of documents related to the employee’s age and licensing and driving history; and maintain logs of on-the-job driving by 17-year-old minors.
Children under the age of 18 may not do particularly hazardous jobs or jobs that are detrimental to their health or well-being. These include:
• Occupations in or about plants manufacturing explosives (DOL regulations explain the definition of explosives and explosive materials for purposes of this section).
• Forest fire fighting and forest fire prevention, working in timber tracts, in forestry services, logging, and the operation of any sawmill, lath mill, shingle mill, or cooperage stock mill.
• Mining.
• Operating power-driven woodworking machines.
• Occupations involving radioactive substance exposure.
• Operating power-driven metal forming, punching, and shearing machines.
Work of operating, tending, riding on, working from, repairing, servicing, or disassembling an elevator, crane, derrick, hoist, or high-lift truck, except operating or riding inside an unattended automatic operation passenger elevator. Tending such equipment includes assisting in the hoisting tasks being performed by the equipment.
• Slaughtering, meatpacking, and rendering. This includes setting up, adjusting, repairing, or oiling the machines or cleaning the machines or their individual parts or attachments.
• Operating bakery machines. This does not apply to portable, counter-top food mixers that are comparable to those used in private homes and certain pizza-dough rollers used under specific conditions.
• Operating and unloading paper products machines.
• Making brick, tile, and the like.
• Operating circular saws, band saws, guillotine shears, chain saws, reciprocating saws, wood chippers, and abrasive cutting discs.
• Wrecking, demolition, shipbreaking, roofing, and excavation operations.
• Any occupation in roofing operations or that requires working on or about a roof.
Note: 16- or 17-year-old workers may work in some of these hazardous occupation jobs if they are enrolled in a cooperative vocational education program that is certified by the DOL.
Minors aged 14 and 15. Children aged 14 and 15 may work only:
• Outside of school hours
• For 18 hours during any week when school is in session
• For 40 hours during a week when school is not in session
• For 3 hours during any day when school is in session (including Fridays)
• For 8 hours on a day when school is not is session
• From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on any day, except from June 1 through Labor Day when the child may work from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"School hours" refers to the hours that the local public school district where the minor resides while employed is in session during the regularly scheduled school year. "Week" means a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours—seven consecutive 24-hour periods—that is identical to the workweek the employer establishes for the employee.
Exceptions. Attendants at professional sports events may work beyond the weekly time and hour restrictions but not during school hours.
Work experience students. Students who are enrolled in a work experience or career exploration program during school hours may work for as many as 3 hours on a school day and for up to 23 hours in a school week.
Minors aged 16 and older. There are no federal limits on working hours for 16- and 17-year-old workers. Many state laws do restrict working hours for these workers, however, with stricter requirements applicable to employment on school days or evenings before school days. State laws that are more restrictive than federal laws must be followed.
Although federal law does not require age documentation, employers are protected against unknowing age violations if they have a verified age certificate for each minor employee. It is up to the employer to determine whether it has workers who are subject to child labor laws and to establish the age of any minor. DOL suggests that employers obtain a federal certificate of age issued by the Wage and Hour division or a state certificate of age issued by the applicable state department of labor. Many states consider a certified birth certificate to be an acceptable form of proof of age, and employers want to keep such proof on file if they are unable to obtain an age certificate.
Federal provisions do not require minors to obtain work permits, although many states do so.
Basic rate. All employees, including minors, must be paid the federal minimum wage and overtime pay with the following exceptions:
Youth subminimum (“opportunity”) wage. New hires under the age of 20 may be paid an opportunity wage of $4.25 per hour during the first 90 calendar days of employment. Employers may not displace any current employee in order to hire a worker at the opportunity wage (29 USC 206(g)).
Apprentices, learners, students. The federal wage and hour administrator may issue special certificates allowing employment at wages below the minimum for apprentices, student learners, messengers, and the disabled (29 USC 214).
The FLSA has different rules that apply to children working in agriculture. For details, request Child Labor Requirements in Agriculture Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (Child Labor Bulletin No. 102) from the DOL, Wage and Hour Division.
The Walsh-Healey Act prohibits minors under the age of 16 from working on jobs performed under contract with the federal government. However, this limitation does not apply to office, custodial, or similar work if it is not a direct part of production. The Act bars employees under the age of 18 from “hazardous” work, the standards for which are stringent. As a result, employers engaged in government contracts seldom employ anyone under the age of 18, except for the most obviously nonhazardous jobs.
Public and private school districts may apply to the administrator of the federal Wage and Hour Division for approval to operate a work-study program that would permit academically oriented 14- and 15-year-olds to work during school hours and up to 8 hours on a school day. The minors must be enrolled in a college preparatory curriculum and must receive, every year they participate in the work-study program, at least the minimum number of hours of classroom instruction required by the applicable state educational agency. Each participating school is required to name a teacher-coordinator to supervise the work-study program, make regularly scheduled visits to the students’ worksites, and ensure that participants are employed in compliance with the minimum wage and child labor provisions of the FLSA. Each participant must be identified by the teacher-coordinator from his or her school as being able to benefit from the work-study program.
Students participating in a valid work-study program would be permitted to work up to 18 hours a week, a portion of which may be during school hours, in accordance with the following formula that is based on a continuous 4-week cycle. In 3 of the 4 weeks, the participant would be permitted to work during school hours on only 1 day per week, and for no more than 8 hours on that day. During the remaining week of the 4-week cycle, the minor would be permitted to work during school hours on no more than 2 days, and for no more than 8 hours on each of those 2 days. The employment of the minors would still be subject to the time of day and number of hours standards that generally apply to minors.
Written participation agreement. The teacher-coordinator, the employer, and the student would be required to sign a written participation agreement that details the objectives of the work-study program, describes the specific job duties to be performed by the student, and the number of hours and times of day that the student would be employed each week. The agreement, which must also be signed or otherwise consented to by the student’s parent or guardian, would also affirm that the student will receive the minimum number of hours of classroom instruction as required by the state educational agency for the completion of a fully accredited college preparatory curriculum, and that the employment will comply with the applicable child labor and minimum wage provisions of the FLSA. A copy of the written agreement must be kept by both the employer and the school for 3 years from the date of the student’s enrollment in the program. The agreements must be made available upon request to the Wage and Hour Division for inspection, transcription, and photocopying.
This program does not in any way negate or preclude schools or employers from participating in other preexisting or future work-study programs, work experience, or career exploration programs, internships, or apprenticeships that also comport with the provisions of the FLSA.
This program is designed to provide a carefully planned work experience and career exploration program for 14- and 15-year-olds who can benefit from a career-oriented educational program designed to meet their needs, interests, and abilities. The program is aimed at helping minors become reoriented and motivated toward education and to prepare them for the world of work. State Departments of Education are granted approval to operate a WECEP by the administrator of the Wage and Hour Division for a 2-year period. Certain rules are modified for 14- and 15-year-old participants during the school term. For example, they may work during school hours. They may work up to 3 hours on a school day and as many as 23 hours in a school week. They also may work in some occupations that would otherwise be prohibited; but they may not work in manufacturing, mining, or any of the hazardous occupations.
The federal DOL has created the Child Labor Enhanced Penalty Program (CLEPP). Employers that violate federal child labor laws can be fined up to $11,000 for each employee who was the subject of a violation not resulting in death or serious injury. Employers may be subject to imprisonment for a second offense. A civil penalty of $15,000, $25,000, or $40,000 will generally be assessed for each child labor violation that causes a serious injury of a minor employee other than death. If a violation resulted in the serious injury or death of a minor, DOL may assess a fine of up to $50,000 for each employee who was the subject of a violation that was not willful or repeated, or up to $100,000 for willful or repeated violations.
DOL may reduce certain initial penalty amounts in consideration of the size of the employer’s business when all the criteria listed below have been met:
• The employer’s gross annual dollar volume of sales made or business done, exclusive of excise taxes, does not exceed $1,000,000.
• None of the employer’s child labor violations were determined to be willful or repeated.
• The employer did not conceal or falsify child labor violations.
• None of the employer’s child labor violations caused or contributed to the death of a minor employee.
• None of the employer’s child labor violations caused or contributed to a serious injury of a minor that resulted in an initial assessment amount of $40,000 for a CLEPP serious injury or $10,000 for a Non-CLEPP serious injury.
• The employer has given credible assurances of future compliance.
• If a child labor violation caused or contributed to a serious injury, there may be only one such violation and only one such injury.
If all the criteria above have been met, the DOL will generally reduce the initial penalty amount based on the following formula:
• The initial amount will be reduced by 50 percent if the employer has less than 21 employees.
• The initial penalty amount will be reduced by 30 percent if the employer has between 21 and 99 employees.
• No reduction will be permitted if the employer has a gross annual dollar volume of sales made or business done, exclusive of excise taxes, that is greater than $1,000,000, or if the employer employs 100 or more employees.
• Employers are responsible for verifying the age of their minor employees. Age certificates do not give employers authority to violate any child labor laws.
• Employers must determine the minor's age and set his or her job duties and work schedules accordingly and carefully.
• Employers must file the minor employee's age certificate, keeping it for as long as the minor is employed.
• Unless employers are absolutely certain that they are not engaged in interstate commerce, they should assume that they are.
• Employers must check state law and federal law and comply with the more restrictive law.
For additional information on federal child labor laws, contact:
U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
202-693-0072
866-4-USA-DOL (toll-free)
Last reviewed on June 10, 2014.
Related Topics:
National
What is child labor? The child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibit employers from hiring minors (individuals under the age of 18) to work at dangerous occupations, for an excessive number of hours, and at unsuitable times of the day or night. States also have child labor laws and when state and federal laws differ, the stricter law applies. There are separate rules for minors under 18, under 16, and under 14 years of age, both on the number of hours and times of the day and year they may work, as well as the types of work that they are allowed to perform. In addition, there are rules on proof of age, minors driving motor vehicles, minimum wage rates, children working in agriculture, and work under federal contracts. Severe penalties may be imposed on employers that violate child labor laws. Employers are prohibited from retaliating or otherwise discriminating against an employee who files a complaint or participates in a legal proceeding under the Act.
YouthRules! is an initiative by the federal government to promote positive and safe work experiences for teens by distributing information about young workers to youth, parents, employers, and educators. Components of the initiative include a website, printed materials, outreach events, training seminars, and partnering activities. Early work experiences can provide great opportunities for teens to learn important work skills. Federal and state rules regarding young workers attempt to strike a balance between ensuring sufficient time for educational opportunities and allowing appropriate work experiences.
The YouthRules! Web page is a gateway providing quick access to information about federal and state labor laws that apply to young workers. The Web page includes information designed to educate teens on what the rules are, as well as to provide information for parents, educators, and employers (http://www.youthrules.dol.gov/index.htm).
Also, as part of the YouthRules! initiative, the Department of Labor (DOL) and its partners develop and distribute informational materials, develop curricula for educators, provide training on the federal and state rules governing young workers, increase awareness through public service announcements, and develop other tools designed to increase compliance with federal and state laws.
Only the following occupations are open to children under 14 years of age:
Agriculture. Nonhazardous agricultural jobs are open to children over 12 if they have written parental consent and do not work during school hours. If no 12-year-old workers are available, an employer can apply for a waiver from the DOL to allow children over 10 to work in hand-harvesting jobs. However, they can work for no more than 8 weeks per year and only if there is no risk of adverse health effects resulting from the use of pesticides.
Newspaper delivery. There is no federal age restriction applicable to newspaper carriers who deliver to subscribers and who sell newspapers on the street. However, the deliveries must be to individual subscribers or consumers and not to drop stations, newsstands, or distribution centers.
Acting and performing. Actors and performers are exempt from federal child labor laws, but most states regulate their employment.
Employment by parent. Parents may employ their own children in any occupation except manufacturing, mining, and other occupations where the minimum age requirement is 18 years.
Children who are under the age of 16 are generally excluded from all manufacturing, mining, processing, public messenger, or machine-tending work. They are also excluded from transportation, warehouse work, construction, communications, and public utility occupations, except for office or sales work in connection with these. They are also prohibited from operating a motor vehicle or providing service as a helper on a motor vehicle. They may not perform any job on the “hazardous” list applying to minors under the age of 18.
There is a minimum age of 16 for employment in agriculture during school hours except where the worker is employed by his or her parent.
Children who are 14 and 15 years old may do the following types of work:
• Office and clerical work, including the operation of office machines.
• Work of an intellectual or artistically creative nature such as, but not limited to, computer programming, the writing of software, teaching or performing as a tutor, serving as a peer counselor or teacher’s assistant, singing, playing a musical instrument, and drawing. Artistically creative work is limited to work in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.
• Cooking with electric or gas grills (but not over an open flame) or with deep fryers that automatically lower and raise the baskets to and from the hot oil.
• Cashiering, selling, modeling, art work, work in advertising departments, window trimming, and comparative shopping.
• Price-marking and tagging by hand or machine, assembling orders, packing, and shelving.
• Bagging and carrying out customers’ orders.
• Errand and delivery work by foot, bicycle, and public transportation.
• Cleanup work, including the use of vacuum cleaners and floor waxers, and the maintenance of grounds, but not including the use of power-driven mowers, cutters, trimmers, edgers, or similar equipment.
• Kitchen work, preparing and serving food. Permitted machines include, but are not limited to, dishwashers, toasters, dumbwaiters, popcorn poppers, milk shake blenders, coffee grinders, automatic coffee machines, devices used to maintain the temperature of prepared foods (such as warmers, steam tables, and heat lamps), and microwave ovens that do not warm above 140°F. Minors are permitted to clean kitchen equipment (not otherwise prohibited), remove oil or grease filters, pour oil or grease through filters, and move receptacles containing hot grease or hot oil, but only when the equipment, surfaces, containers, and liquids do not exceed a temperature of 100°F. Minors are also permitted to occasionally enter freezers momentarily to retrieve items in conjunction with restocking or food preparation.
• Cleaning vegetables and fruits, and the wrapping, sealing, labeling, weighing, pricing, and stocking of items, including vegetables, fruits, and meats, when performed in areas physically separate from a freezer or meat cooler.
• The loading onto and unloading from motor vehicles light, non-power-driven, hand tools, and personal protective equipment that the minor will use as part of his or her employment at the worksite and personal items such as a backpack, a lunch box, or a coat that the minor is permitted to take to the worksite. Such light tools would include, but are not limited to, rakes, handheld clippers, shovels, and brooms. Light tools would not include items like trash, sales kits, promotion items or items for sale, lawn mowers, or other power-driven lawn maintenance equipment. The minors would not be permitted to load or unload safety equipment such as barriers, cones, or signage.
• Inside or outside places of business where machinery is used to process wood products (for 14- or 15-year-olds who by statute or judicial order are exempt from compulsory school attendance beyond the eighth grade) if the youth is supervised by an adult relative or an adult member of the same religious sect or division, does not operate or assist in the operation of power-driven woodworking machines, is protected from wood particles or other flying debris within the workplace by a barrier, and is required to use, and uses, personal protective equipment to prevent exposure to excessive levels of noise and sawdust.
• Work in connection with cars and trucks if limited to dispensing gasoline and oil, courtesy service, car cleaning, washing and polishing by hand; but not including work involving the use of pits, racks, or lifting apparatus, or involving the inflation of any tire mounted on a rim equipped with a removable retaining ring.
• Certain work in connection with riding inside passenger compartments of motor vehicles. Each minor riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle must have his or her own seat in the passenger compartment and wear a seatbelt.
Lifeguard work allowed for minors age 15. The employment of 15-year-olds (but not 14-year-olds) as lifeguards and swimming instructors is permitted at traditional swimming pools and water amusement parks (but not including the elevated areas of power-driven water slides), when the minors have been trained and certified by the American Red Cross, or a similar certifying organization, in aquatics and water safety. This rule does not permit working as a lifeguard or swimming instructor at natural environment swimming facilities, such as rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, quarries, reservoirs, wharfs, piers, canals, or oceanside beaches.
Minors 14 and 15 years old may not work in the following occupations, which is not an exhaustive list:
• Most work in manufacturing, mining, or processing occupations.
• Work deemed hazardous for the employment of minors between the ages of 16 and 18 or detrimental to their health or well-being.
• Occupations that involve operating, tending, setting up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling, or repairing hoisting apparatus.
• Work performed in or about boiler or engine rooms or in connection with the maintenance or repair of the establishment, machines, or equipment.
• Occupations that involve operating, tending, setting up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling, or repairing any power-driven machinery including, but not limited to, lawn mowers, golf carts, all-terrain vehicles, trimmers, cutters, weed-eaters, edgers, food slicers, food grinders, food choppers, food processors, food cutters, and food mixers. Youth 14 and 15 years of age may operate certain office equipment, vacuum cleaners, and floor waxers.
• The operation of motor vehicles.
• Outside window washing that involves working from window sills, and all work requiring the use of ladders, scaffolds, or their substitutes.
• Most baking and cooking activities.
• Work in freezers and meat coolers and work in the preparation of meats for sale. Minors may enter freezers only momentarily to retrieve items.
• Youth peddling, which entails the selling of goods or services to customers at locations other than the youth employer’s establishment, such as the customers’ residences or places of business, or public places such as street corners and public transportation stations. Prohibited activities associated with youth peddling not only include the attempt to make a sale or the actual consummation of a sale, but also the preparatory and concluding tasks normally performed by a youth peddler in conjunction with his or her sales, such as the loading and unloading of vans or other motor vehicles, the stocking and restocking of sales kits and trays, the exchanging of cash and checks with the employer, and the transportation of minors to and from the various sales areas by the employer. Prohibited youth peddling also includes such promotion activities as the holding, wearing, or waving of signs, merchandise, costumes, sandwich boards, or placards in order to attract potential customers, except when performed inside of, or directly in front of, the employer’s business providing the product, service, or event being advertised. (Exceptions: Minors may conduct sales for their employers on property controlled by the employer that is outside, but may properly be considered part of the employer’s establishment, such as garden centers, sidewalk sales, and parking lot sales. Minors may also sell goods or services as volunteers and without compensation on behalf of certain organizations, such as the Girl Scouts.)
• Loading and unloading of goods or property onto or from motor vehicles, railroad cars, or conveyors.
• Catching and cooping of poultry in preparation for transport or for market.
• Public messenger service
• Occupations in connection with the transportation of persons or property by rail, highway, air, water, pipeline, or other means; warehousing and storage; communications and public utilities; and construction. (Office or sales work in these industries is allowed if it does not involve the performance of any duties on trains, motor vehicles, aircraft, vessels, or other media of transportation or at the actual site of construction operations.)
No employee under 17 years of age may drive a motor vehicle on public roads as part of his or her job if that employment is subject to the FLSA. Minors 17 years of age may drive on public roadways as part of their employment, but only if all of the following requirements are met:
• The driving is limited to daylight hours.
• The 17-year-old holds a state license valid for the type of driving involved in the job performed.
• The 17-year-old has successfully completed a state-approved driver education course and has no record of any moving violations at the time of hire.
• The automobile or truck does not exceed 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.
• The automobile or truck is equipped with a seat belt for the driver and any passengers, and the employer has instructed the youth that the seat belts must be used when driving the vehicle.
• The driving is only occasional and incidental to the 17-year-old's employment. This means that the youth may spend no more than one-third of his or her workday and no more than 20 percent of his or her work time in any workweek driving.
In addition, the driving may not involve:
• Towing vehicles
• Any other vehicle than an automobile or truck (e.g., bus, motorcycle, ATVs, golf cart)
• Route deliveries or route sales
• Transportation for hire of property, goods, or passengers
• Urgent, time-sensitive deliveries (Urgent, time-sensitive deliveries are trips that, because of such factors as customers' satisfaction, the rapid deterioration of the quality or change in temperature of the product, and/or economic incentives, are subject to timelines, schedules, and/or turnaround times that might impel the driver to hurry in the completion of the delivery. Prohibited trips would include, but are not limited to, the delivery of pizzas and prepared foods to the customer; the delivery of materials under a deadline (such as deposits to a bank at closing); and the shuttling of passengers to and from transportation depots to meet transport schedules. Urgent, time-sensitive deliveries would not depend on the delivery's points of origin and termination and would include the delivery of people and things to the employer's place of business as well as from that business to some other location.)
• Transporting more than three passengers, including employees of the employer
• Driving beyond a 30-mile radius from the youth’s place of employment
• More than two trips away from the primary place of employment in any single day to deliver the employer’s goods to a customer (other than urgent, time-sensitive deliveries that are prohibited)
• More than two trips away from the primary place of employment in any single day to transport passengers, other than employees of the employer
Even though DOL does not require recordkeeping, employers have the burden of proving that they have met the requirements for on-the-job driving by 17- year-old employees. DOL suggests that employers keep a copy of documents related to the employee’s age and licensing and driving history; and maintain logs of on-the-job driving by 17-year-old minors.
Children under the age of 18 may not do particularly hazardous jobs or jobs that are detrimental to their health or well-being. These include:
• Occupations in or about plants manufacturing explosives (DOL regulations explain the definition of explosives and explosive materials for purposes of this section).
• Forest fire fighting and forest fire prevention, working in timber tracts, in forestry services, logging, and the operation of any sawmill, lath mill, shingle mill, or cooperage stock mill.
• Mining.
• Operating power-driven woodworking machines.
• Occupations involving radioactive substance exposure.
• Operating power-driven metal forming, punching, and shearing machines.
Work of operating, tending, riding on, working from, repairing, servicing, or disassembling an elevator, crane, derrick, hoist, or high-lift truck, except operating or riding inside an unattended automatic operation passenger elevator. Tending such equipment includes assisting in the hoisting tasks being performed by the equipment.
• Slaughtering, meatpacking, and rendering. This includes setting up, adjusting, repairing, or oiling the machines or cleaning the machines or their individual parts or attachments.
• Operating bakery machines. This does not apply to portable, counter-top food mixers that are comparable to those used in private homes and certain pizza-dough rollers used under specific conditions.
• Operating and unloading paper products machines.
• Making brick, tile, and the like.
• Operating circular saws, band saws, guillotine shears, chain saws, reciprocating saws, wood chippers, and abrasive cutting discs.
• Wrecking, demolition, shipbreaking, roofing, and excavation operations.
• Any occupation in roofing operations or that requires working on or about a roof.
Note: 16- or 17-year-old workers may work in some of these hazardous occupation jobs if they are enrolled in a cooperative vocational education program that is certified by the DOL.
Minors aged 14 and 15. Children aged 14 and 15 may work only:
• Outside of school hours
• For 18 hours during any week when school is in session
• For 40 hours during a week when school is not in session
• For 3 hours during any day when school is in session (including Fridays)
• For 8 hours on a day when school is not is session
• From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on any day, except from June 1 through Labor Day when the child may work from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"School hours" refers to the hours that the local public school district where the minor resides while employed is in session during the regularly scheduled school year. "Week" means a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours—seven consecutive 24-hour periods—that is identical to the workweek the employer establishes for the employee.
Exceptions. Attendants at professional sports events may work beyond the weekly time and hour restrictions but not during school hours.
Work experience students. Students who are enrolled in a work experience or career exploration program during school hours may work for as many as 3 hours on a school day and for up to 23 hours in a school week.
Minors aged 16 and older. There are no federal limits on working hours for 16- and 17-year-old workers. Many state laws do restrict working hours for these workers, however, with stricter requirements applicable to employment on school days or evenings before school days. State laws that are more restrictive than federal laws must be followed.
Although federal law does not require age documentation, employers are protected against unknowing age violations if they have a verified age certificate for each minor employee. It is up to the employer to determine whether it has workers who are subject to child labor laws and to establish the age of any minor. DOL suggests that employers obtain a federal certificate of age issued by the Wage and Hour division or a state certificate of age issued by the applicable state department of labor. Many states consider a certified birth certificate to be an acceptable form of proof of age, and employers want to keep such proof on file if they are unable to obtain an age certificate.
Federal provisions do not require minors to obtain work permits, although many states do so.
Basic rate. All employees, including minors, must be paid the federal minimum wage and overtime pay with the following exceptions:
Youth subminimum (“opportunity”) wage. New hires under the age of 20 may be paid an opportunity wage of $4.25 per hour during the first 90 calendar days of employment. Employers may not displace any current employee in order to hire a worker at the opportunity wage (29 USC 206(g)).
Apprentices, learners, students. The federal wage and hour administrator may issue special certificates allowing employment at wages below the minimum for apprentices, student learners, messengers, and the disabled (29 USC 214).
The FLSA has different rules that apply to children working in agriculture. For details, request Child Labor Requirements in Agriculture Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (Child Labor Bulletin No. 102) from the DOL, Wage and Hour Division.
The Walsh-Healey Act prohibits minors under the age of 16 from working on jobs performed under contract with the federal government. However, this limitation does not apply to office, custodial, or similar work if it is not a direct part of production. The Act bars employees under the age of 18 from “hazardous” work, the standards for which are stringent. As a result, employers engaged in government contracts seldom employ anyone under the age of 18, except for the most obviously nonhazardous jobs.
Public and private school districts may apply to the administrator of the federal Wage and Hour Division for approval to operate a work-study program that would permit academically oriented 14- and 15-year-olds to work during school hours and up to 8 hours on a school day. The minors must be enrolled in a college preparatory curriculum and must receive, every year they participate in the work-study program, at least the minimum number of hours of classroom instruction required by the applicable state educational agency. Each participating school is required to name a teacher-coordinator to supervise the work-study program, make regularly scheduled visits to the students’ worksites, and ensure that participants are employed in compliance with the minimum wage and child labor provisions of the FLSA. Each participant must be identified by the teacher-coordinator from his or her school as being able to benefit from the work-study program.
Students participating in a valid work-study program would be permitted to work up to 18 hours a week, a portion of which may be during school hours, in accordance with the following formula that is based on a continuous 4-week cycle. In 3 of the 4 weeks, the participant would be permitted to work during school hours on only 1 day per week, and for no more than 8 hours on that day. During the remaining week of the 4-week cycle, the minor would be permitted to work during school hours on no more than 2 days, and for no more than 8 hours on each of those 2 days. The employment of the minors would still be subject to the time of day and number of hours standards that generally apply to minors.
Written participation agreement. The teacher-coordinator, the employer, and the student would be required to sign a written participation agreement that details the objectives of the work-study program, describes the specific job duties to be performed by the student, and the number of hours and times of day that the student would be employed each week. The agreement, which must also be signed or otherwise consented to by the student’s parent or guardian, would also affirm that the student will receive the minimum number of hours of classroom instruction as required by the state educational agency for the completion of a fully accredited college preparatory curriculum, and that the employment will comply with the applicable child labor and minimum wage provisions of the FLSA. A copy of the written agreement must be kept by both the employer and the school for 3 years from the date of the student’s enrollment in the program. The agreements must be made available upon request to the Wage and Hour Division for inspection, transcription, and photocopying.
This program does not in any way negate or preclude schools or employers from participating in other preexisting or future work-study programs, work experience, or career exploration programs, internships, or apprenticeships that also comport with the provisions of the FLSA.
This program is designed to provide a carefully planned work experience and career exploration program for 14- and 15-year-olds who can benefit from a career-oriented educational program designed to meet their needs, interests, and abilities. The program is aimed at helping minors become reoriented and motivated toward education and to prepare them for the world of work. State Departments of Education are granted approval to operate a WECEP by the administrator of the Wage and Hour Division for a 2-year period. Certain rules are modified for 14- and 15-year-old participants during the school term. For example, they may work during school hours. They may work up to 3 hours on a school day and as many as 23 hours in a school week. They also may work in some occupations that would otherwise be prohibited; but they may not work in manufacturing, mining, or any of the hazardous occupations.
The federal DOL has created the Child Labor Enhanced Penalty Program (CLEPP). Employers that violate federal child labor laws can be fined up to $11,000 for each employee who was the subject of a violation not resulting in death or serious injury. Employers may be subject to imprisonment for a second offense. A civil penalty of $15,000, $25,000, or $40,000 will generally be assessed for each child labor violation that causes a serious injury of a minor employee other than death. If a violation resulted in the serious injury or death of a minor, DOL may assess a fine of up to $50,000 for each employee who was the subject of a violation that was not willful or repeated, or up to $100,000 for willful or repeated violations.
DOL may reduce certain initial penalty amounts in consideration of the size of the employer’s business when all the criteria listed below have been met:
• The employer’s gross annual dollar volume of sales made or business done, exclusive of excise taxes, does not exceed $1,000,000.
• None of the employer’s child labor violations were determined to be willful or repeated.
• The employer did not conceal or falsify child labor violations.
• None of the employer’s child labor violations caused or contributed to the death of a minor employee.
• None of the employer’s child labor violations caused or contributed to a serious injury of a minor that resulted in an initial assessment amount of $40,000 for a CLEPP serious injury or $10,000 for a Non-CLEPP serious injury.
• The employer has given credible assurances of future compliance.
• If a child labor violation caused or contributed to a serious injury, there may be only one such violation and only one such injury.
If all the criteria above have been met, the DOL will generally reduce the initial penalty amount based on the following formula:
• The initial amount will be reduced by 50 percent if the employer has less than 21 employees.
• The initial penalty amount will be reduced by 30 percent if the employer has between 21 and 99 employees.
• No reduction will be permitted if the employer has a gross annual dollar volume of sales made or business done, exclusive of excise taxes, that is greater than $1,000,000, or if the employer employs 100 or more employees.
• Employers are responsible for verifying the age of their minor employees. Age certificates do not give employers authority to violate any child labor laws.
• Employers must determine the minor's age and set his or her job duties and work schedules accordingly and carefully.
• Employers must file the minor employee's age certificate, keeping it for as long as the minor is employed.
• Unless employers are absolutely certain that they are not engaged in interstate commerce, they should assume that they are.
• Employers must check state law and federal law and comply with the more restrictive law.
For additional information on federal child labor laws, contact:
U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
202-693-0072
866-4-USA-DOL (toll-free)
Last reviewed on June 10, 2014.
CT-WEB06
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