Child Labor

The FSLA protects worker under the age of 18 to ensure that they are safe at work and that work does not jeopardize their health or their ability to receive an education. States also have child labor laws, some of which are more restrictive than the FSLA. Child workers generally receive the same protections and usually greater protections, than adult workers under the FSLA. The FSLA’s child labor provisions do not apply to children under the age of 16 who work for their parents, children who work as actors, children who deliver newspapers, or children who work at home making evergreen wreaths.

Workers under the age of 20 are entitled to receive minimum wage under the FSLA, but during the first 90 days of employment, an employer is allowed to pay these workers a lesser wage of $4.25 per hour. Certain students, apprentices, and disabled workers also may receive less than minimum wage under special allowances by the Department of Labor. Restaurant servers and other workers who receive tips may be paid $2.13 per hour so long as the additional money made in tips adds up to at least minimum wage.

Under the FSLA, workers at least 16 years old may work unlimited hours unless the job is deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. Workers who are14 or 15 years old may not work during school hours except in career exploration programs through the school. They may not work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. during school months; they may not work after9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day. Workers who are 14 or 15 years old may not work more than three hours per school day, more than eight hours per non-school day, more than eighteen hours per school week, or more than forty hours per non-school week. Children who work as professional sports attendants are exempted from the maximum hours requirements but still may not work during school hours.

Workers who are 14 or 15 years old may not work in certain occupational areas, such as manufacturing, mining, food processing, transportation, warehousing, construction, or any occupation deemed hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. These workers may work in most retail, food service, and gasoline service occupations but may not perform work in an engine or boiler room, maintain or repair machines or equipment, work on ladders or scaffolds or perform outside window washing, cook or bake, operate food slicers or grinders, work in freezers or meat coolers, load or unload goods from trucks or conveyors or railroad cars, or work in warehouses.

Children under the age of 18 are prohibited from driving occupations, but workers who are 17 may drive cars and trucks as part of their work on an occasional and incidental basis. Driving must take place during daylight hours, and the worker must hold a valid state license to drive and have no record of moving violations. The car or truck must have a seat belt, and the worker must use the seat belt when driving. The driving may not include towing cars or other vehicles, route deliveries or sales, transporting more than three people, urgent deliveries, or more than two trips away from the employer per day.

Employers who violate the FSLA’s child labor protections are subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000 per child laborer. The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration enforces the FSLA and has investigators stationed throughout the country to ensure that employers comply with the law.


Inside Child Labor