Federal and State Child Labor Laws to Be Aware Of

Child Labor Laws
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Considering hiring a young worker for your business? If you want to hire your own children or other young people, you need to know the laws that apply to young workers.

Federal Child Labor Laws

The federal government regulates child workers through the Department of Labor's Fair Labor Standards Act:
The child labor provisions of the Act include restrictions on hours of work and occupations for youths under age 16. These provisions also set forth 17 hazardous occupations orders for jobs that the Secretary has declared too dangerous for those under age 18 to perform.

The most common restrictions for workers under age 18:

  • Minors age 16 and 17 may perform any job not declared a hazardous job or occupation and are not subject to restrictions on hours
  • Minors age 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in various non-manufacturing, non-mining, nonhazardous jobs, under the following conditions:
    • No more than three hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, eight hours on a non-school day, or 40 hours in a non-school week. In addition, they may not begin work before 7 a.m. or work after 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended until 9 p.m.
    • The permissible work for 14 and 15-year-olds is limited to those jobs in the retail, food service, and gasoline service establishments specifically listed in the regulations.

Keeping Records

If you employ younger workers, you must keep records of the dates of birth of employees under age 19, their daily starting and quitting times, their daily and weekly hours of work, and their occupations. Employers may protect themselves from unintentional violation of the child labor provisions by keeping on file an officially-issued employment or age certificate for each young worker to show that the minor has the minimum age for the job. Age or employment certificates issued under most state laws are generally acceptable for this purpose.

Age/Employment Certificates

Age and Employment certificates are issued in each state by either the school or the state labor department.

State Child Labor Restrictions

U.S. states also have restrictions on child labor, depending on the age of the worker (under age 16, and age 16&17). Check this list of state child labor restrictions to see which apply in your state. You may also want to check with your state labor department for specific restrictions relating to your type of business.