Employers Resource

An Overview of Child Labor Laws

child labor lawsSchool is back in session for kids around the country so it’s a good time to review child labor laws and restrictions for young workers.  During summer months while school is generally not in session, teens have more flexibility in the number of hours and times they are legally able to work.  Once the school year starts again though, that all changes.

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In addition to the limitations on the number of hours, there are many occupations which are restricted further to employing particular teenage workers.  States also have their own child labor laws.

The Federal Law

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law that restricts the employment and abuse of child workers.  It protects educational opportunities for youth, determines which jobs are unsafe, and restricts the number of hours that can be worked for those under the age of 16.

Hazardous Occupations

14- and 15-year-olds may not be employed in these and many other occupations:

  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Work involving power-driven machinery
  • Operating, servicing or riding in a motor vehicle
  • Most baking and cooking activities
  • Work requiring the use of a ladder, scaffold or similar

Some occupations deemed hazardous for minors ages 16 and 17:

  • Excavation
  • Manufacturing explosives
  • Mining
  • Operating many types of power-driven equipment

A comprehensive list of occupational restrictions can be found on the Department of Labor website or contact your Client Service Representative for additional information.

What hours and how many?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the minimum age for employment in non-agricultural employment is 14. Hours worked by 14- and 15-year-olds are limited to:

  • Non-school hours;
  • 3 hours in a school day;
  • 18 hours in a school week;
  • 8 hours on a non-school day;
  • 40 hours on a non-school week; and
  • hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m.)

Youth who are 14 and 15 years old and enrolled in an approved Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP) may be employed for up to 23 hours in school weeks and 3 hours on school days (including during school hours).

The FLSA does not limit the number of hours or times of day for workers 16 years and older.

child labor laws 2Exceptions

Children working for parents

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides for certain exemptions. Minors under age 16 working in a business solely owned or operated by their parents or by persons standing in place of their parents, can work any time of day and for any number of hours. However, parents are prohibited from employing their child in manufacturing or mining or in any of the occupations declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.

See also: 3 Things on the Fed’s Radar Small Business Owners Should Know About

The FLSA minimum age requirements do not apply to minors employed by their parents, or by a person acting as their guardian. An exception to this occurs in mining, manufacturing and occupations where the minimum age requirement of 18 years old applies.

Other exceptions

In addition, the child labor rules do not apply to:

  • Youth employed as actors or performers in motion pictures, theatrical, radio, or television productions;
  • Youth engaged in the delivery of newspapers to consumers; and
  • Youth working at home in the making of wreaths composed of natural holly, pine, cedar, or other evergreens (including the harvesting of the evergreens).


In almost all cases, youth workers must be paid at least the applicable minimum wage, just as adult workers.

State Laws

States have their own sets of child labor laws.  While many states mirror the federal rules, it is important to note that whether state or federal, the law that affords the most protection would apply.

Work Permits and Age Certifications

Federal child labor laws do not require employers to obtain work permits; however, there are many states that do.   It is important to understand if employment certificates/work permits or age certification is required in states where you do business.  For example, with limited exceptions, work permits must be obtained for minors in the state of California.

The amount of youth employment information can be overwhelming to navigate through.   Employers Resource is here to keep you moving in the right direction to stay compliant.

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