UNDERSTANDING CHILD LABOR LAWS « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


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Hiring a teen under age 18 involves some essentials:

1.     Familiarity with Applicable Laws: Review federal and state laws on teen employment — especially the rules on what types of jobs teens are not allowed to perform.  Many small businesses, and especially those just starting out, aren’t sure what’s required of them, or where to look for help. The information available through the U.S. Department of Labor and an on-line search for “__________ child labor laws” should be helpful.

2.     California’s On-Line Information Resources: The California Department of Labor Standards enforcement has a special website devoted to this state’s rules on minors and employment. The site’s summary is particularly helpful: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/MinorsSummaryCharts.pdf.

3.     More Stringent State Laws Apply: The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor rules affecting full- and part-time workers in most of the private sector nationwide. An employer must also comply with any more stringent state laws that apply.  For example, while federal child labor rules do not require work permits, many states do require them, including California.  Also, the rules will vary depending on the age of the minor worker and his or her duties.

4.     Hours and Age Restrictions: For minors (under 18) employed in non-agricultural jobs, federal restrictions include:

–  Minimum age is 14.

–  Youth 16 or 17 may perform any non-hazardous job for unlimited hours when school is not in session and outside school hours when in session.

–  Unless it’s the family farm, youth 14 and 15 years old may only work in non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs. They cannot work more than three hours a day on school days; or more than 40 hours per week when school is not in session.

–  During the school year, 14- and 15-year-olds may not work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m.  The cut-off time is extended to 9:00 p.m. when school is not in session (summer).

5.     Safety Regulations:  Whether or not minors are on the workforce, an employer must ensure its working environment complies with applicable safety regulations. A small business’s best starting point is probably the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) website: www.osha.gov/smallbusiness. Check out the “Compliance Assistance Quick” Start section which helps new small businesses understand the rules and find the right resources. Dozens of private suppliers also sell OSHA compliance materials.  Also review the applicable sections for the California OSHA (“Cal OSHA”) site.

6.     Resources for Workplace Safety of Minors: “Young Workers” is a helpful government site with information on summer job safety for specific sectors, including construction, landscaping, parks and recreation, lifeguarding and restaurants. Under landscaping, for example, you’ll find tips on preventing injury from pesticides, electrical hazards, noise and many others. (www.osha.gov/SLTC/teenworkers)

7.     Resources for Restaurant Safety of Minor Employees: Restaurants rank especially high among industries at risk for teen worker injuries. OSHA has a website devoted to such restaurant safety, covering serving, drive-thru, cooking, delivery and others aspects of the business. (www.osha.gov/SLTC/youth/restaurant/)

Labor law regulations vary depending the industry and type of job a minor is hired to perform. Before you assign a job to a minor, contact an experienced California employment law attorney to ensure you do so lawfully.