Laws Regulating The Employment Of Children And Child Labor

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The first step if you will towards regulating the employment of children was taken in 1904 when the National Child Labor Committee started advocating for national child labor laws that needed to be upheld by all states. The Keating-Owens Act was passed in 1916 and banned all interstate sales of anything and any place that used child labor. Then, The Fair Labor Standards Act, originally drafted in 1932, finally was passed by congress in 1938 and was tasked with regulating the employment of minors 14 and above. The State of Florida and the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) have set up guidelines and provisions concerning minors in the workplace. Children aged 14-17 are grouped into two categories, 14-15-year-olds and 16-17 year-olds. Minors are still covered by labor acts like OSHA and most labor laws like minimum wage, workers compensation and so forth still apply to minors so they will not be focused on. The main focus will be on the laws that apply only on employees under the age of 18 and over the age of 14. Children aged fourteen and fifteen have several hour restrictions and are not allowed to be employed in hazardous occupations. FLSA does not put any hour restrictions on employees aged Sixteen and seventeen. Some states, including Florida, do put some of those restrictions but during school hours only. A look into the hour restrictions and potential issues concerning employing minors are important topics and deserve a more detailed look.

Fourteen & Fifteen

As stated by the FLSA: Employees aged fourteen or fifteen are not allowed to work during school hours (some exceptions). They are only allowed to work a maximum of three hours on school days and eight hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On a school day they are not allowed to work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. There is a limit of 18 hours per week when school is in session. When school is out (vacation, holidays, etc.) they may work up to 8 hours a day, 40 hours per week but not before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. No employee in this age group is allowed to work more than 6 consecutive days in any week and no more than 4 consecutive hours without a 30-minute uninterrupted break.

Sixteen & Seventeen

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FLSA puts no restriction on the number of hours they are allowed to work during a school day. Some states, Florida specifically, do not allow them to work during school hours unless they meet one of the criterions of the hour restriction mentioned next. Per FLSA, minors aged 16 & 17 may work up to 30 hours a week but not before 6:30 a.m. or later than 11 p.m. and for no more than 8 hours a day. There are no limitations on the number of hours they are allowed to work when school is not in session. Minors in this age group are not allowed to work for more than 6 consecutive days in any week and not more than 4 consecutive hours without a 30-minute uninterrupted break.

Potential Issues

There is a distinct possibility minors will go over their maximum allowed number of hours without supervision. A worker may call off one day and have a minor cover that shift. These extra hours may result in a minor going over the carefully planned and acceptable hour threshold. A minor may have been scheduled for 12 hours one week but an extra shift would push that to 18-20 hours which would put them over their limit. Managers need to be mindful of this pitfall and carefully monitor who is covering for an absentee and not allow any changes in shifts that would put a minor over the limit. Some managers may unintentionally violate child labor laws by having a minor perform one of the hazardous occupations prohibited by FLSA. A manager for example may innocuously ask a minor to operate machinery exclusively prohibited by FLSA guidelines. There is also the need to make sure minors are clocking out at or near the exact scheduled time. Extra minutes may, once added up, put them over their daily and/or weekly hour restrictions. This is especially important when their shift ends at the latest time permissible by FLSA. A minor clocking out 12-15 minutes late every shift is adding about 60-90 minutes to their weekly hour total. Every minor needs to take a 30-minute break after every 4 hours with absolutely no exception. Busy days or being short staffed is not an excuse to break child labor laws.

End Notes

There are many laws regarding the employment of minors and is thus a very important topic. The restrictions on working hours and days need to be ingrained in every manager. It’s also important that managers know which tasks are off limits for underaged employees. Fast Food Chain Qdoba, based in San Diego, was fined over $400’000 earlier this year for violating child labor laws and serves as a sober reminder of the repercussions of not abiding to the FLS Act. Per FLSA, maximum fines allowed for each minor/violation are $11’000 while the state of Florida punishes violations through a fine of up to $2’500 per violation/minor and/or being guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor.   

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Laws Regulating The Employment Of Children And Child Labor. (2021, October 26). WritingBros. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from
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