Child Labor Laws – Are you in Compliance?

Each year, millions of teenagers take on part-time or summer jobs. Early work experiences can be very rewarding, while providing teens with great opportunities to learn important work skills. If you’re employing teens, the Department of Labor (DOL) oversees the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) child labor provisions or child labor laws. This specifies the hours young workers can work, the jobs they may perform and the jobs that are designated too hazardous for them to perform. The Act’s regulations are outlined below, along with additional steps you can take to keep young workers safe.

Child Labor Laws – Age Limitations by Type of Work

Children age 13 and under are limited to the following types of jobs:

  • Delivering newspapers
  • Babysitting
  • Acting or performing in motion pictures, radio, television or theater
  • Working in businesses solely owned or operated by parents
  • Working on farms owned or operated by parents

When children reach age 14, the following types of jobs become acceptable:

  • Office work
  • Non-hazardous grocery store work
  • Retail store
  • Restaurant
  • Movie theater
  • Baseball park
  • Non-hazardous amusement park work
  • Non-hazardous gasoline service station work

However, at age 14, these jobs are not allowed:

  • Communications or public utilities jobs
  • Construction or repair jobs
  • Driving a motor vehicle or helping a driver
  • Manufacturing and mining occupations
  • The use of power-driven machinery or hoisting apparatus other than typical office machines
  • Processing occupations
  • Public messenger jobs
  • Transporting of persons or property
  • Workrooms where products are manufactured, mined or processed
  • Warehousing and storage
  • Any other job or occupation declared hazardous by the Department of Labor

At age 16, a teen may work in any job that has not been declared hazardous by the Department of Labor.

Hazardous Occupations

Hazardous occupations, as declared by the Department of Labor, are not allowed for anyone under the age of 18. A partial list of child labor laws hazardous occupations includes the following:

  • Manufacturing and storing of explosives
  • Driving a motor vehicle and being an outside helper on a motor vehicle
  • Coal mining
  • Mining other than coal mining
  • Logging and saw milling
  • Power-driven woodworking machines
  • Exposure to radioactive substances
  • Power-driven hoisting apparatus
  • Power-driven metal forming, punching and shearing machines
  • Meat packing or processing, including the use of power-driven meat slicing machines
  • Power-driven bakery machines
  • Power-driven paper-product machines
  • Manufacturing brick, tile and related products
  • Power-driven circular saws, band saws and guillotine shears
  • Wrecking demolition and ship-breaking operations
  • Roofing operations
  • Excavation operations

Once a person turns 18, he or she may work in any job for as many hours as desired. Child labor laws no longer apply.

Work Hour Regulations by Age

Use this guide to determine the number of hours minors can work as described in the child labor laws:

  • Under Age 12
    • If a child is younger than 12, he or she may only work on farms, provided the farm is not required to pay the federal minimum wage. Only “small farms” are exempt from the minimum wage requirements. By definition, “small” means any farm that did not use more than 500 “man-days” of agricultural labor in any calendar quarter during the preceding calendar year. “Man-day” means any day during which an employee works at least one hour.
    • If the farm is “small,” workers under 12 years of age may be employed in non-hazardous jobs, but only during hours when school is not in session, and only with a parent’s permission.
  • Age 12 or 13
    • If a child is 12 or 13 years of age, he or she may only work in agriculture on a farm if a parent has given written permission, or a parent is working on the same farm. Again, the work can only be performed during hours when school is not in session and non-hazardous jobs.
  • Age 14 or 15
    • If a child is 14 or 15 years of age, he or she may work no more than:
      • 3 hours per day on a school day, 18 hours in a school week
      • 8 hours on a non-school day
      • 40 hours in non-school week
    • Additionally, they may work outside of school hours from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. The only exception is from June 1 through Labor Day, when 14- and 15-year olds may work until 9 p.m.
  • Age 16 and Older
    • If a worker is age 16 or older, he or she may work any day, any time of day, and for any number of hours. There are no restrictions on the work hours of children age 16 or older.

Recommendations for Employers

In addition to understanding child labor laws, there are additional steps you can take to protect young workers:

  • Recognize potential hazards
  • Eliminate any issues present in your workplace that could injure a young worker
  • Make sure equipment used by workers is safe and legal
  • Supervise young workers
  • Be certain that young workers are appropriately supervised at all times
  • Inform supervisors and adult workers of the tasks that teens should not perform
  • Make sure that young workers are appropriately supervised at all times
  • Label the equipment that teens cannot use, or color-code their uniforms so that others know they may not perform certain tasks
  • Periodically verify through supervisors that teens are obeying safety practices
  • Educate young workers to ensure that they recognize hazards and are competent regarding safe working practices
  • Training should include how to prepare for fires, accidents, violent situations and protocol for injuries
  • Teens need to know that they have a right to file a claim to cover their medical benefits and lost work time if they are injured
  • Have young workers demonstrate that they can perform assigned tasks safely and correctly
  • Implement a mentoring or buddy system for new young workers
  • Ensure that equipment used by teen workers is both legal and safe
  • Develop an injury and illness prevention program

Additional Resources

Contact Van Wyk Risk Solutions for knowledge and tools to ensure you’re in compliance with child labor laws.

The U.S. Department of labor at also offers information and child labor law asssitance.

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