Labor laws are a body of rules, regulations, and laws which apply in employment settings. Common disputes involving labor law include:

The term labor law is nearly interchangeable with the term employment law. These two areas of law govern mostly the same topics and issues.

Labor lawyers may also be referred to as employment lawyers. However, a lawyer who is involved in union disputes is usually referred to as a labor lawyer.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the administrative agency which hears disputes between unions and employers. The NLRB also determines which union represents a group of employees.

What Federal Laws Pertain to Child Labor?

The Fair Standards Labor Act (FLSA) of the Department of Labor protects against child labor by setting requirements for:

  • Age;
  • Minimum wage; and
  • The types of work.

In some states, the child labor laws go beyond the federal requirements. The Fair Standards Labor Act provides that children who engage in non-agricultural work should, in general, be 16 years old.

Under certain conditions, however, a 14-year-old may work in certain occupations, provided that the work hours do not overlap with school hours. For work in the agricultural field, such as farming, the minimum age for child labor is 12 years of age under federal law.

A parent must permit their child to work. In addition, the working hours must not coincide with school hours.

Are there Further Limitations on Child Labor in Hazardous Occupations?

Yes, the Fair Standards Labor Act prohibits children under the age of 18 to work in specific occupations which are deemed to be hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. These rules apply even if an individual hires their own child or children.

  • Job-related activities which are deemed to be hazardous include:
  • Manufacturing and storing explosives;
  • Activities related to motor vehicles, such as driving and helping to unload;
  • Forestry and firefighting-related occupations;
  • Working with power-driven machines, including:
    • woodworking;
    • hoisting;
    • metal-forming;
    • saws;
    • bakery machines; and
    • paper-products machines;
  • Activities that involve exposure to radioactive materials;
  • Mining of coal specifically, as well as mining generally;
  • Packing and servicing of meats;
  • Any work on or about rooftops;
  • Demolition and wrecking activities; and
  • Excavation activities.

There are 17 categories of hazardous occupations which are not available to children who are younger than 18 years of age.

How are Labor Laws for Minors Determined?

The federal government outlines the rights and protections provided to employed minors in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Every state has its own laws governing child labor.

A parent or an employer may follow the child labor laws which provide greater protections and benefits to the minor employee. Labor laws which govern minor employment may cover a wide variety of employment issues, including:

  • What types of jobs minors are permitted to perform;
  • How many hours minors can work; or
  • What pay rate minors can or should be paid for their work.

For example, certain jobs may be considered too hazardous or too dangerous for a minor to perform. Both state and federal laws may restrict the types of jobs minors are permitted to perform, especially if there is some element of safety or health risks involved.

Who is Considered a Minor and How Many Hours Can They Work?

A minor is an individual who is under the age of majority in a state, typically 18 years of age. The federal government permits minors who are at least 14 years of age to be employed.

However, the hours that a minor under the age of 16 are permitted to work are limited. Minors who are 14 to 15 years of age are limited to working:

  • 18 hours per week when attending school;
  • 3 hours in one school day;
  • 8 hours on days they are not attending school;
  • 40 hours per week during a non-school week;
  • From the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the majority of the year; and
  • From 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. from June 1 to Labor Day.

Federal laws do not limit the number of work hours for a minor who is 16 to 18 years old.

What are the Typical Restrictions on the Labor of Children?

There are certain general restrictions which typically apply to children in different age categories. The youngest category of children who are permitted to work are children ages 14 and 15, except in agriculture.

This age group are governed by the most regulations, including:

  • When school is in session, they are permitted to work a maximum of 18 hours per week and no more than 3 hours per day. Work during the school year cannot begin before 7 a.m. or end after 7 p.m.;
  • When school is not in session, a 40-hour week, with a maximum of 8 hours per day, is permitted. Between June 1st and Labor Day, 14 and 15 year olds are not permitted to work beyond 9 p.m.; and
  • Possible jobs, provided that there is no conflict with school hours, are limited to:
    • restaurant work;
    • food service;
    • retail; and
    • gasoline service work.

There are fewer regulations which apply to children ages 16 and 17. The hours they are permitted to work are not capped.

However, children in this age group still cannot work in industries deemed to be hazardous. Pursuant to federal law, 16 is the basic minimum age, therefore, unlimited hours of work are permitted in non-hazardous occupations.

Federal child labor laws do not apply to individuals over 18 years of age. General federal employment and labor laws, however, still apply.

How Much Money Can Minors Earn?

The federal minimum wage for minor employees is different from the federal minimum wage for adult employees for the first consecutive 90 days. The youth minimum wage is $4.25 per hour for this time period.

After the 90 day time period, a minor receives $7.25 per hour. This law applies to any employee under the age of 20.

Are There Any Jobs That a Minor Cannot Work?

A minor is permitted to work for their parents at any age unless the working conditions are hazardous or are in mining or manufacturing. Minors who are 16 to 17 years of age are not permitted to work in hazardous environments.

As previously noted, certain jobs may be restricted because of unsafe working conditions or safety of health hazards. Although these laws may vary by jurisdiction, the following categories of jobs are usually regulated and restricted in some manner when it comes to minors:

  • Occupations involving explosives;
  • Various excavation and mining jobs, in particular, coal mining;
  • Jobs that involve exposure to radioactive substances;
  • Meat processing and slaughtering jobs;
  • Jobs involving the use of:
    • circular saws;
    • band saws; and
    • other types of saws;
  • Some roofing jobs, especially if it involves exposure to high heat;
  • Operations involving wrecking or demolition; and
  • Other types of jobs that involve similar levels of danger.

Employers that knowingly hire a minor in a job which is restricted may face legal consequences, which may include fines and other penalties. The employer may also face fines if they violate federal or state child labor laws with regards to:

  • Hours worked;
  • Pay rates; and
  • Other employment issues.

What Are Some Exemptions to Child Labor Laws and Regulations?

There are some exemptions to federal child labor laws, including certain exceptions for:

  • Children who work for the solely-owned non-farm business of their parents;
    • restrictions on hazardous activities still apply;
  • Children who perform in:
    • theater;
    • on the radio; or
    • on television;
  • Delivering newspapers for consumers; and
  • Making evergreen wreaths.

Should I Consult an Attorney before Hiring a Minor to Work for Me?

Labor laws governing minor employment are complex because there are duties and jobs minors are not permitted to perform. Prior to hiring or allowing a minor to work for you, it may be helpful to consult with a local labor lawyer.

Your lawyer can assist you in determining if the position would violate your state or federal labor laws and defend you in court if you are facing charges for violating child labor laws.