Don’t Kid Around with Child Labor Laws

by Michael Haberman on March 2, 2011 · 0 comments


My email yesterday contained the following pronouncement from the US Department of Labor:

The U.S. Department of Labor has assessed a total of $277,475 in civil money penalties against three movie theatre companies, Marcus Theatre Corp., Regal Cinemas Inc. and Wehrenberg Inc., for allowing dozens of teens to perform hazardous jobs and work longer hours than allowed by the youth employment provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

This shows that the Department of Labor is serious about how children are treated in the workplace. Parents are as well. I know many a parent who is normally a “company loyalist” but when they find out their child has been mistreated in some way, shape or form is quick to call the Department of Labor and report the company. So if you use children in your business it behooves you to know what you are dealing with.

First, who is covered by child labor laws under the USDOL? According to the Fair Labor Standards Act this includes:

In nonagricultural work, the child labor provisions apply to enterprises with employees engaging in interstate commerce, producing goods for interstate commerce, or handling, selling, or working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for interstate commerce. For most firms, an annual dollar volume of business test of not less than $500,000 applies.

Employees of firms that do not meet the $500,000 annual dollar volume test may be subject to the FLSA’s child labor provisions in any workweek in which they are individually engaged in interstate commerce, the production of goods for interstate commerce, or an activity that is closely related and directly essential to the production of such goods.

The Act covers the following employers regardless of their dollar volume of business: hospitals; institutions primarily engaged in the care of the sick, aged, mentally ill, or disabled who reside on the premises; schools for children who are mentally or physically disabled, or gifted; preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education; and federal, state, and local government agencies.

There are a number of restrictions for children 16 and under, with specific restrictions for 15 and 14 year olds. Basically the restrictions are:

The permissible jobs and hours of work, by age, in nonfarm work are as follows:

  • Minors age 18 or older are not subject to restrictions on jobs or hours
  • Minors age 16 and 17 may perform any job not declared hazardous by the Secretary, and are not subject to restrictions on hours
  • Minors age 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in various nonmanufacturing, non-mining, nonhazardous jobs listed by the Secretary in regulations published at 29 CFR Part 570 under the following conditions: no more than three hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, eight hours on a non-school day, or 40 hours in a non-school week. In addition, they may not begin work before 7 a.m. or work after 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended until 9 p.m. The permissible work for 14 and 15 year olds is limited to those jobs in the retail, food service, and gasoline service establishments specifically listed in the Secretary’s regulations. Those enrolled in an approved Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP) may work up to 23 hours in school weeks and three hours on school days (including during school hours).

There are 17 jobs that the USDOL has declared too hazardous for children to perform. These can be found at http://www.dol.gov/dol/cfr/Title_29/. You can also see a rule change on hazardous jobs here.

According to the FLSA “… employers must keep records of the dates of birth of employees under age 19, their daily starting and quitting times, their daily and weekly hours of work, and their occupations. Employers may protect themselves from unintentional violation of the child labor provisions by keeping on file an officially-issued employment or age certificate for each young worker to show that the minor has the minimum age for the job. Age or employment certificates issued under most state laws are generally acceptable for this purpose. See 29 CFR 570.5”  Here in the state of Georgia work permits are obtained from the high school guidance office where the child attends.

There are many more particulars about child labor laws, children working in agriculture, wages and training wages for youth. The USDOL has a website called YouthRules! that can provide you further information.

But as you can see from the opening line of this post kidding around with Child Labor Laws can be very expensive.

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