The Fair Labor Standards Act, or “FLSA,” is what sets and governs many of the requirements for various areas of employment. To simplify all that the FLSA sets standards for, the following are some examples:
- Minimum wage rates;
- Overtime pay rates;
- Employer record keeping; and
- The employment of minors in both the public and private sectors.
Additionally, the Act regulates how many hours per day or week that an employee can work. Although the Act does not specifically regulate the number of hours that employees older than sixteen can work, it does contain a number of strictly enforced provisions associated with employing people who are under the age of sixteen.
The Act provides protections for those aged 14 to 17 years old, under its child labor regulations. Such protections include restrictions on maximum work hours, in addition to a listing of occupations that are considered to be too hazardous for minors to perform.
The Fair Standards Labor Act states that minors who engage in non-agricultural work should generally be sixteen years old at minimum. However, there are certain circumstances in which fourteen year olds may work in specific occupations so long as there is no overlap with school hours. In terms of agricultural work, such as farming, the minimum age is twelve according to federal law. Parents must permit their child to work, and working hours must not coincide with school hours.
It is important to note that each state’s labor code may contain additional restrictions on employing minors. Employers must adhere to these restrictions, in addition to those enforced by the FLSA.
What Are Some Examples of Federal Child Labor Restrictions?
According to federal labor law, minors who are under the age of sixteen can work in occupations that are non-mining, non-manufacturing, and non-hazardous. They may work such jobs for the following hours:
- Three hours during school days;
- Eighteen hours during one school week;
- Eight hours during no school days;
- Forty hours during weeks with no school; and
- No hours before 7 AM or after 7 PM, except from June 1st-Labor Day, in which they may not work past 9 PM.
It is imperative to keep in mind that child labor restrictions are intended to protect minors from as many exploitative instances as possible. These restrictions exist to protect them from job conditions that could be considered detrimental to their wellbeing or overall health.
As previously mentioned, the Act maintains a list of occupations in which minors may not be employed. These occupations are considered to be hazardous for children, and as such they are considered to be too dangerous for them to perform.
Some additional examples of dangerous occupations as denoted by the FLSA include, but may not be limited to:
- Coal mining;
- Any job involving forest fires, such as fire fighting;
- Jobs involving excavating operations; and
- Jobs involving specific types of machinery, such as:
- Power driven metal working machinery;
- Circular saws; and
- Bakery machines, such as an extruder.
Some specific examples of job related activities prohibited by the FLSA include:
- Manufacturing and storing explosives;
- Any activities related to motor vehicles, such as driving and assisting in unloading;
- Activities involving exposure to radioactive materials;
- Packing and servicing meats;
- Work on or about rooftops;
- Demolition and wrecking; and
What If I Have Violated Either the FLSA or My State’s Labor Code?
Generally speaking, if an employer has violated child labor laws at either level, they will face a misdemeanor charge. A misdemeanor crime is a criminal offense that is considered to be more serious than a citation, but is less serious than felony charges. Most states have determined that a misdemeanor is generally punishable by a sentence of up to one year in a county jail facility, as well as criminal fines. It is important to note that the jail sentence is not to be served in a state prison facility, which is generally reserved for felony charges.
In terms of violating either the FLSA or your state’s child labor code, you may face impriosnment in your county’s jail plus a fine of up to $5,000. The penalties for any subsequent violations will generally be more serious, and may be elevated to a felony charge in specific circumstances.
Something else to consider is that legal penalties for misdemeanors often depend on the classification of the misdemeanor. Classes of misdemeanors are associated with set penalties.
An example of this would be how a typical penal code would propose the following penalties for each misdemeanor class:
- Class A or 1: Up to one year spent in a county jail, and/or fines of up to $2,500;
- Class B or 2: Up to six months spent in a county jail, and/or fines of up to $1,000;
- Class C or 3: Up to three months spent in a county jail, and/or fines of up to $500; and
- Class D or 4: Up to thirty days spent in a county jail, and/or fines of up to $250.
It is common for a person facing misdemeanor criminal charges to also face a civil lawsuit for damages. This would be filed by the victim, and is common for cases in which the victim is seeking additional compensation for losses resulting from the violation.
Generally speaking, if the defendant was found guilty of the crime in criminal court, or if they entered into a no contest plea, they will also likely be held liable in civil court. This is due to the fact that the standard of proof is higher in criminal courts than it is in civil courts.
Are There Any Defenses to Violating Child Labor Laws?
Criminal defenses to misdemeanor crimes, such as violating child labor laws, may apply in certain circumstances. Some common legal defenses to misdemeanors include:
- Lack of Evidence: All crimes, regardless of how they are classified, require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It may serve as a defense if the prosecution cannot prove the elements of the crime, or if they did not provide sufficient evidence;
- Intoxication: Being intoxicated at the time of the crime is a common defense in cases where it must be shown that the defendant acted intentionally. The argument is that the intoxication affected the defendant’s ability to act intentionally;
- Coercion or Duress: If the defendant was forced to act under threat of harm or injury, this may serve as a defense. An example of this would be if a person is held at knife point, and told to assault someone else; and
- Self-Defense: It is common for cases that involve bodily injury, such as battery, to also involve self-defense. However, in order to assert this defense, the defendant must have only used a reasonable or proportionate amount of force. Additionally, they cannot be the party who initiated the use of force.
In terms of violating child labor laws specifically, there are some exemptions to child labor laws and regulations that may also serve as a defense. Some examples of such exceptions may include:
- Children who work for their parents, when their parents solely own a non-farming business;
- Children who perform in theater, television, film, and radio;
- Delivering newspapers to consumers; and
- Very specifically, making evergreen wreaths.
Do I Need an Attorney For Issues Associated With Hours That Minors Can Work?
Whether you are an employer, a minor employee, or the parent of a minor employee, you should immediately consult with an experienced and local employment lawyer. Employers must adhere to federal standards, as well as state requirements, which can vary widely.
An experienced and local employment attorney will be best suited to helping you understand your state’s specific laws, and provide the most relevant legal advice based on your needs. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, while protecting your legal rights.