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Non-Agricultural Child Labor Restrictions Under The Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) guarantees many workers a minimum wage and premium pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours each week. It also regulates the employment of children and youth in an effort to protect educational opportunities for children and to shield children from hazardous working environments.

The FLSA distinguishes between agricultural employment and non-agricultural employment. This article summarizes the non-agricultural child labor provisions of the FLSA.

The FLSA, which applies to most employers, applies different restrictions to different aged workers.

Children under the Age of 14

Children under the age of 14 are allowed to work in very limited capacities. The FLSA does not prevent them from working as casual babysitters, newspaper delivery workers, or actors and performers.

Children Who Are 14 and 15 Years Old

Children who are 14 or 15 years old may work in various nonhazardous jobs. Their work, however, is subject to the following restrictions:

  • No work during school hours,
  • No work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. (except that during the summer they may work until 9:00 p.m.),
  • No more than three hours of work on school days,
  • No more than eight hours of work per day when school is not in session,
  • No more than 18 hours of work per week when school is in session, and
  • No more than 40 hours per week of week when school is not in session.

Workers Who are 16 and 17 Years Old

Workers who are 16 and 17 years old may work any job that has not been declared to be hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.

Workers 18 Years of Age and Older

The FLSA child labor provisions do not apply to workers who are 18 years of age and older.

Hazardous Activities

The Secretary of Labor has set forth a number of jobs that are hazardous and, thus, are off-limits to workers under the age of 18. Some types of jobs are considered hazardous for children 15 and under, but not for those 16 and 17 years of age. The following categories of employment are hazardous for all workers under the age of 18:

  • Mining,
  • Excavating,
  • Meat Packing,
  • Logging,
  • Operation of Bakery Machines,
  • Roofing, and
  • Operation of Circular Saws.

Enforcement of FLSA Provisions

The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor enforces the child labor provisions of the FLSA. Employers who violate the law may be subject to civil fines as high as $11,000 for each violation.