I had an interesting legal question asked of me the other day, one that hits a little close to home. How young is too young to work? This came up in the context of an employer wanting to legally employ a high school kid. For me, I was curious what the legal ramifications, if any, are of paying my 13-year-old daughter to work at my office this summer. This has become an issue on family farms lately as the Feds are threatening to impose regulations that ban children from working on family farms. In response, the following is a summary of the current state of child labor law, quoted straight from the United States Department of Labor web site.
Jobs Youth Can Do:
• 13 or younger: baby-sit, deliver newspapers, or work as an actor or performer
• Ages 14-15: office work, grocery store, retail store, restaurant, movie theater, or amusement park
• Age 16-17: Any job not declared hazardous
• Age 18: No restrictions
Hours Youth Ages 14 and 15 Can Work:
• After 7 am and until 7 pm (Hours are extended to 9 pm June 1–Labor Day)
• Up to 3 hours on a school day
• Up to 18 hours in a school week
• Up to 8 hours on a non-school day
• Up to 40 hours in a non-school week
Note: Different rules apply to youth employed in agriculture (see below). States also regulate the hours that youth under age 18 may work. To find more information on federal or state rules, log on to www.youthrules.dol.gov.
• Youths ages 16 and above may work in any farm job at any time.
• Youths aged 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in jobs not declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.
• Youths 12 and 13 years of age may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs on farms that also employ their parent(s) or with written parental consent.
• Youths under 12 years of age may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs with parental consent, but only on farms where none of the employees are subject to the minimum wage requirements of the FLSA.
• Local youths 10 and 11 may hand harvest short-season crops outside school hours for no more than 8 weeks between June 1 and October 15 if their employers have obtained special waivers from the Secretary of Labor.
• Youths of any age may work at any time in any job on a farm owned or operated by their parents.
Following are tasks that all children under 18 are strictly banned from performing, commonly referred to as “hazardous occupations.” Where a “Fact Sheet” is referenced, you can find the entire document at www.dol.gov.
• HO 1. Manufacturing or storing explosives—bans minors working where explosives are manufactured or stored, but permits work in retail stores selling ammunition, gun shops, trap and skeet ranges, and police stations.
• HO 2. Driving a motor vehicle or work as an outside helper on motor vehicles—bans operating motor vehicles on public roads and working as outside helpers on motor vehicles, except 17-year-olds may drive cars or small trucks during daylight hours for limited times and under strictly limited circumstances (see Fact Sheet #34 in this series for information about on-the-job driving).
• HO 3. Coal mining—bans most jobs in coal mining.
• HO 4. Occupations in forest fire fighting, forest fire prevention, timber tract, forestry service, and occupations in logging and sawmilling operations—bans most jobs in: forest fire fighting; forest fire prevention that entails extinguishing an actual fire; timber tract management; forestry services; logging; and sawmills.
• HO 5. Power-driven woodworking machines—bans the operation of most power- driven woodworking machines, including chain saws, nailing machines, and sanders.*
• HO 6. Exposure to radioactive substances and ionizing radiation—bans employment of minors where they are exposed to radioactive materials.
• HO 7. Power-driven hoisting apparatus—bans operating, riding on, and assisting in the operation of most power-driven hoisting apparatus such as forklifts, non-automatic elevators, Bobcat loaders, skid steer loaders, backhoes, manlifts, scissor lifts, cherry pickers, work-assist platforms, boom trucks, and cranes. Does not apply to chair-lifts at ski resorts or electric and pneumatic lifts used to raise cars in garages and gasoline service stations.
• HO 8. Power-driven metal-forming, punching and shearing machines—bans the operation of certain power-driven metal-working machines but permits the use of most machine tools.*
• HO 9. Mining, other than coal—bans most jobs in mining at metal mines, quarries, aggregate mines, and other mining sites including underground work in mines, work in or about open cut mines, open quarries, and sand and gravel operations.
• HO 10. Power-driven meat-processing machines, slaughtering and meat packing plants—bans the operation of power-driven meat processing machines, such as meat slicers, saws and meat choppers, wherever used (including restaurants and delicatessens). Also prohibits minors from cleaning such equipment, including the hand-washing of the disassembled machine parts. This ban also includes the use of this machinery on items other than meat, such as cheese and vegetables. HO 10 also bans most jobs in meat and poultry slaughtering, processing, rendering, and packing establishments.*
• HO 11. Power-driven bakery machines—bans the operation of power-driven bakery machines such as vertical dough and batter mixers; dough rollers, rounders, dividers, and sheeters; and cookie or cracker machines. Permits 16- and 17-year-olds to operate certain lightweight, small, portable, counter-top mixers and certain pizza dough rollers under certain conditions.
• HO 12. Balers, compactors, and power-driven paper-products machines—bans the operation of all compactors and balers and certain power-driven paper products machines such as platen-type printing presses and envelope die cutting presses. Sixteen- and 17 year-olds may load, but not operate or unload, certain scrap paper balers and paper box compactors under very specific guidelines (see Fact Sheet #57). *
• HO 13. Manufacturing of brick, tile and related products—bans most jobs in the manufacture of brick, tile and similar products.
• HO 14. Power-driven circular saws, band saws, guillotine shears, chain saws, reciprocating saws, wood chippers, and abrasive cutting discs—bans the operation of, and working as a helper on, the named types of power-driven equipment, no matter what kind of items are being cut by the equipment.*
• HO 15. Wrecking, demolition, and ship-breaking operations—bans most jobs in wrecking, demolition, and ship-breaking operations, but does not apply to remodeling or repair work which is not extensive.
• HO 16. Roofing operations and work performed on or about a roof—bans most jobs in roofing operations, including work performed on the ground and removal of the old roof, and all work on or about a roof* (see Fact Sheet #74)
• HO 17. Trenching and excavation operations—bans most jobs in trenching and excavation work, including working in a trench more than four feet deep.*
*The regulations provide a limited exemption from HOs 5, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 17 for apprentices and student-learners who are at least 16 years of age and enrolled in approved programs.
Finally, here’s the provision that applies to my daughter’s situation:
Under Children under 14 years of age may not be employed in non-agricultural 14 occupations covered by the FLSA. Permissible employment for such children is limited to work that is exempt from the FLSA (such as delivering newspapers to the consumer and acting). Children may also perform work not covered by the FLSA such as completing minor chores around private homes or casual baby-sitting.
In summation, my 13-year-old daughter can’t work at my office until she turns 14. I guess the federal jack-booted thugs running the Department of Labor think a paper cut is more hazardous that a farm-implement injury, or an errant pitchfork. As for your situation, be very careful employing child labor. Review the above as well as all applicable fact sheets. It is probably a good idea to get a formal legal analysis done before you dip your toe into this hot water.
***As always, this article is in no way provided as legal advice and no attorney-client privilege is created by any information provided on ACE LAW LETTER. If you reside in Kansas and need legal advice on this or any other issue, please call Kevin toll free at 866-4-ACELAW, that’s 866-422-3529.