The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division mandates that employers comply with the youth employment provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the implementing regulations of 29 CFR Part 570.
These provisions, of which many concern manufacturing, are designed to protect young workers by restricting the types of jobs that they perform and the number of hours they work. The DOL strives to educate teens and employers on the federal youth employment rules in order to promote positive and safe work experiences.
The following self-assessment tool is designed to identify some of the most common problems encountered by young workers. If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you are likely not in compliance with federal regulations.
To assess your compliance with federal child labor regulations, examine these questions.
Do any workers under 18 years of age do the following:
- Work in or about plants or establishments manufacturing or storing explosives, or articles containing explosive components, including fireworks? Minors under age 18 may not work where explosives are manufactured or stored. Such minors may, however, work in retail stores selling ammunition, gun shops, and skeet ranges.
- Drive or serve as an outside helper on any motor vehicle (including but not limited to automobiles, trucks, golf carts, etc.) on a public road or highway? Minors under 18 generally may not drive any type of motor vehicle or work as an outside helper on public roads or highways. This prohibition extends to the towing of vehicles and the driving of school buses and trucks. There is a limited exception to this provision that permits 17-year-olds to drive an automobile or truck (gross vehicle weight not exceeding 6,000 pounds) for limited periods of time when certain conditions are met. These conditions include that the minors possess a valid license, the driving is only during daylight hours, the driving does not involve urgent time-sensitive deliveries such as delivering a pizza to a residence, and the driving is only occasional and incidental to their employment. There are additional requirements that must be met.
- Work in or about any mine or quarry? Minors under 18 may not be employed in occupations in or about any mine. There are limited exceptions for 16- and 17-year-olds for the occupation of slate or other refuse picking at a picking table or picking chute in a tipple or breaker, and for occupations requiring the performance of duties solely in offices or in repair or maintenance shops located in the surface part of any coal-mining plant.
- Work in forest fire fighting, forest fire prevention, timber tract management, forestry services, logging, or in a sawmill, lath mill, shingle mill, or cooperage-stock mill? Minors under 18 may not be employed in most occupations in forest fire fighting, forest fire prevention, timber tract management, forestry services, logging, and in the operation of any sawmill, lath mill, shingle mill, or cooperage-stock mill. These prohibitions include tree planting and tree thinning operations. There are limited exceptions involving the construction and operation of logging camps and firefighting base camps. In addition, certain forest fire prevention work is permitted when not performed in conjunction with extinguishing an actual fire. There are also limited exceptions for minors who are at least 14 years old and by statute or judicial order are exempt from compulsory school attendance beyond the eighth grade that permits them to perform some work inside a sawmill. Such minors may not, however, operate or assist in the operation of any power-driven woodworking machines.
- Operate, set up, adjust, repair, oil, or clean any power-driven woodworking machine or perform any off-bearing from circular saws or from guillotine-action veneer clippers? Minors under 18 may not operate, set up, adjust, repair, oil, or clean any power-driven woodworking machines, including chain saws, nailing machines, and sanders. They also may not perform any off-bearing activities from circular saws or from guillotine-action veneer clippers or feed (or help feed) materials into the machines. A limited exception applies to 16- and 17-year-olds that allows them to place materials on a moving chain or in a hopper or slide for automatic feeding. The regulations also provide a limited exemption for apprentices and student-learners who are at least 16 years of age and enrolled in approved programs.
- Perform any activities that involve exposure to radioactive substances or to ionizing radiation? Minors under 18 may not be employed in occupations that would expose them to radioactive substances or ionizing radiation.
- Operate or assist in the operation of any power-driven hoisting apparatus (including a forklift, scissor lift, cherry picker, boom truck, work assist platform, Bobcat loader, skid steer loader, backhoe, or front-end loader)? Minors under age 18 may not operate or assist in the operation of an elevator, crane, derrick, hoist, or high-lift truck (except operating an unattended automatic operation passenger elevator) and may not perform any work that involves riding on a man-lift, high-lift truck, or on a freight elevator (except a freight elevator operated by an assigned operator). Examples of other power-driven hoisting equipment that such youth may not operate or assist in operating include fork trucks, forklift trucks, tiering trucks, stacking trucks, Bobcat loaders, backhoes, front-end loaders, skid steer loaders, and skid loaders. Prohibited manlifts include scissor lifts, cherry pickers, boom trucks, and work assist platforms. The prohibition includes working as a “spotter” to ensure the equipment is being operated safely. Low-lift trucks or low-lift platform trucks that are designed for transporting, but not for tiering, of material are permitted.
- Operate or assist in the operation of any power-driven metal forming, punching, or shearing machine? Minors under 18 may not operate, help operate, set up, adjust, repair, oil or clean rolling machines, pressing or punching machines, bending machines, hammering machines, or shearing machines. There are some exceptions for machine tools. The regulations also provide a limited exemption for apprentices and student-learners who are at least 16 years of age and enrolled in approved programs.
- Operate, feed, set up, adjust, repair, oil, or clean any power-driven meat-processing machine, including meat slicers, or work in any occupation involving meat or poultry slaughtering, packing, processing, or rendering? Minors under the age of 18 may not set up, operate, or assist to operate, clean, oil, adjust, or repair, power-driven meat processing equipment. This includes meat slicers, meat grinders, patty forming machines, meat and bone cutting saws, and food processors when used to process meats. This is true even when the machines are used to process products other than meat, such as vegetables or cheese. Although such minors are also prohibited from cleaning or hand washing the disassembled parts of power-driven meat processing machines, they are permitted to run racks containing the disassembled parts through an automatic dishwasher as long as they do not touch the machine parts. The regulations provide a limited exemption for apprentices and student-learners who are at least 16 years of age and enrolled in approved programs.
- Operate, assist to operate, set up, adjust, repair, oil, or clean any power-driven bakery machine, including mixers? Minors under 18 may not set up, operate, or assist to operate, clean, oil, adjust, or repair power-driven bakery machines. This includes horizontal and vertical dough mixers, batter mixers, bread dividing, rounding or molding machines, dough brakes, dough sheeters, cookie and cracker machines, and cake-cutting bandsaws. A limited exemption is provided for 16- and 17-year-olds who operate (but not set-up, adjust, clean, oil, or repair) certain pizza-dough rollers that have been constructed with safeguards contained in the basic design so as to prevent fingers, hands, or clothing from being caught in the in-running point of the rollers; have gears that are completely enclosed; and have microswitches that disengage the machinery if the backs or sides of the rollers are removed. This exception applies only when all the safeguards detailed in this paragraph are present on the machine, are operational, and have not been overridden. A limited exemption also applies to the operation, including the setting up, adjusting, repairing, oiling, and cleaning, of lightweight, small capacity, portable countertop power-driven food mixers that are, or are comparable to, models intended for household use. For purposes of this exemption, a lightweight, small-capacity mixer is one that is not hardwired into the establishment’s power source, is equipped with a motor that operates at no more than ½ horsepower and is equipped with a bowl with a capacity of no more than five quarts.
- Load, operate, or unload any balers, compactors, or power-driven paper-products machines? Minors under 18 generally may not load, operate, or unload power-driven paper products machines such as compactors and balers used in the disposal of waste, arm-type wire stitchers or staplers, circular or ban saws, die-cutting presses, and guillotine paper cutters. Sixteen and 17-year-olds may load certain scrap paper balers and paper box compactors if the equipment meets certain safety standards, if there is a posting to this effect on the machines, the on-off switch of the machine has a key-lock or other type of lock-out system, and the equipment is inoperable while it is being loaded. The regulations also provide a limited exemption for apprentices and student-learners who are at least 16 years of age and enrolled in approved programs. (HO 12)
- Work in any occupation involved in the manufacture of brick, tile, and kindred products? Minors under 18 may not be employed in most occupations involved in the manufacture of clay construction products and silica refractory products.
- Operate or assist to operate, set up, adjust, repair, oil, or clean any power-driven circular saws, bandsaws, guillotine shears, chain saws, reciprocating saws, wood chippers, or abrasive cutting discs? Minors under 18 may not operate, assist to operate, set up, adjust, repair, oil, or clean circular saws, band saws, or guillotine shears, except machines equipped with full automatic feed and ejection. These same minors may not operate, assist to operate, set up, adjust, repair, oil, or clean chain saws, reciprocating saws, wood chippers, or abrasive cutting discs. These prohibitions apply regardless of the materials being processed (wood, concrete, metal, foam rubber, cake, paper, etc.). The regulations also provide a limited exemption for apprentices and student-learners who are at least 16 years of age and enrolled in approved programs.
Do any workers under 16 years of age do the following:
- Work during school hours? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not work during school hours. School hours are determined by the local public school in the area where the minor is residing while employed, even if the minor does not attend the public school (i.e., attends a private school or is home-schooled). Such minors may be employed outside of school hours with certain limitations. The term outside school hours means such periods as before and after school hours, holidays, summer vacations, Sundays, or any other day or part of a day when the public school district where the minor resides while employed is not in session.
- Work before 7:00 a.m. on any day? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not be employed before 7:00 a.m. on any day.
- Work past 7:00 p.m. between Labor Day and May 31st? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not be employed past 7:00 p.m. from the day after Labor Day through May 31. This applies even if there is no school the next day, such as Friday or Saturday night, as well as in weeks when school is not in session such as during spring break. These same minors may not work past 9:00 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day.
- Work past 9:00 p.m. between June 1st and Labor Day? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not be employed past 9:00 p.m. between June 1 and Labor Day. They may not work past 7:00 p.m. between the day after Labor Day and May 31.
- Work more than 3 hours on a school day, including Fridays? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not work more than 3 hours on a school day, including Fridays. This prohibition applies even if there is no school the next day.
- Work more than 8 hours on any day? Minors 14 and 15 years old may work up to 8 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays and on other days when school is not in session, as long as they do not exceed the maximum permissible hours in any workweek. They may work up to 18 hours in any week school is in session and up to 40 hours in any week school does not meet.
- Work more than 18 hours in any week when school is in session? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not work more than 18 hours a week when school is in session. For these purposes, school is in session in any week in which school meets, even if it meets for a part of a day or a portion of the week. School hours and school weeks are determined by the local public school where the minor would attend if he or she attended public school.
- Work more than 40 hours in any week when school is not in session? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not work more than 40 hours a week when school is not in session. They may not work more than 18 hours a week when school meets. For these purposes, school is in session in any week in which school meets, even if it meets for a part of a day or a portion of the week. School hours and school weeks are determined by the local public school where the minor would attend if he or she attended public school.
- Operate any power-driven machinery, other than office machines? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not operate most power-driven machinery, including lawnmowers, trimmers, and “weed-whackers”. These minors may operate office machinery, vacuum cleaners, floor waxers, and machines and devices used in connection with preparing and serving food and beverages, such as dishwashers, toasters, popcorn poppers, milk shake blenders, coffee grinders and microwave ovens that do not have the capacity to warm above 140°F.
- Ride as a passenger in a motor vehicle (other than public transportation) as part of the job? The child labor rules allow 14- and 15-year-olds to ride inside the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle, but not when a significant reason for the minor being a passenger in the vehicle is for the purpose of performing work in connection with the transporting of—or assisting in the transporting of—other persons or property. As the transporting of, or assisting in the transporting of, other persons or property need only be a significant reason for the minor being in the vehicle and not the primary reason, permissible trips are fairly limited. When such youth are permitted to ride in the passenger compartment, each youth must have his or her own seat in the passenger compartment; each seat must be equipped with a seat belt or similar restraining device, and the employer must advise each passenger that such seat belts or devises are to be used. Fourteen- and 15-year-olds may never be employed as helpers on motor vehicles.
- Clean kitchen equipment or handle, filter, or dispose of hot oil or grease? Fourteen- and 15-year-olds may clean, maintain (including the changing, cleaning, and disposing of oil or grease and oil or grease filters) and repair cooking devices (other than power-driven equipment) when the surfaces of the equipment or liquids do not exceed a temperature of 100°F. All minors under 18 years of age are prohibited from operating and cleaning power-driven meat processing equipment and bakery equipment.
- Catch or coop poultry for slaughter or market? The Department has long taken the position that 14- and 15-year-olds may not be employed to catch and coop poultry in preparation for transportation or for market because it is a “processing” occupation prohibited by § 570.33(a). Such employees are often referred to as “chicken catchers or poultry catchers.” The risks associated with poultry catching also occur in the catching and cooping of poultry other than chickens—for example, processors of turkeys and Cornish game hens employ similar methods of moving their products to slaughter; accordingly, the catching or cooping of such other fowl is also prohibited.
- Perform work on cars and trucks that involves the use of pits, racks, or lifting apparatus or involves the inflation of any tire mounted on a rim equipped with a removable retaining ring? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not perform work involving the use of pits, racks, or lifting apparatus or involving the inflation of any tire mounted on a rim equipped with a removable retaining ring.
- Work inside a freezer or meat cooler? Minors 14 and 15 years old are prohibited from working in freezers and meat coolers. This includes duties such as taking inventory or performing cleanup work which would require them to enter and remain in coolers or freezers for prolonged durations. These minors may enter freezers—but not meat coolers—momentarily to retrieve items.
- Perform any work in preparation of meat for sale (except wrapping, sealing, labeling, weighing, pricing, and stocking in areas separate from where the meat is prepared)? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not perform any work in preparation of meats for sale except for wrapping, sealing, labeling, weighing, pricing, and stocking in areas separate from where the meat is prepared. They may not perform any work in a meat cooler.
- Perform any work in connection with maintenance or repair of the establishment, machines, or equipment? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not perform any work in connection with maintenance or repair of the establishment, machines, or equipment.
- Perform any work requiring the use of ladders, scaffolds, or their substitutes? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not perform work requiring the use of ladders, scaffolds, or their substitutes.
- Load or unload goods from a truck, railroad car, or conveyor? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not load or unload goods to and from conveyors, trucks, railroad cars or tanks, trucks, boats, planes, or other mean of transportation. See 29 CFR § 570.33 and Child Labor Bulletin 101. Such minors may load onto motor vehicles and unload from motor vehicles the light, non-power-driven, hand tools and personal protective equipment that the minor will use as part of his or her employment at the work site, and the personal items such as a backpack, a lunch box, or a coat that the minor is permitted to take to the work site.
- Operate any hoisting equipment, including such equipment as scissor lifts, motorized hand trucks, forklifts, or grocery cart retrieval systems and cart caddies? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not perform work involving the operation or tending or hoisting equipment—whether power-driven or operated manually or by gravity. Such equipment includes forklifts, scissor lifts, motorized hand trucks, patient lifts, winches, cart caddies, or QuicKart (used to move large strings of shopping carts from the parking lot to the front of the store).
- Work in any manufacturing or processing occupation? Minors 14 and 15 years old may not be employed in any manufacturing or processing occupation. They are prohibited from working in or about any plant or processing establishment, or in any workroom or workplace where goods are manufactured, processed, or where explosives or articles containing explosive components are stored.
Are any of your employees under 14 years of age?
Minors 13 years of age and younger are generally too young for employment under the Federal child labor provisions. Permissible employment for such minors is limited to exempt work such as delivering newspapers, performing casual babysitting, acting, performing minor chores around private homes, and working for a parent who is the sole owner of a business (in occupations other than mining, manufacturing, or anything prohibited by an HO).
- Do you fail to maintain a record providing proof of age for all employees under 19 years of age? Employers are required to maintain and preserve certain records, including the date of birth for all employees who are less than 19 years of age.
Employers may protect themselves from unintentional violation of the child labor provisions by keeping on file an employment or age certificate for each minor employed to show that the minor is the minimum age for the job. Although the Wage and Hour Division no longer issues age certificates, certificates issued under most state laws are acceptable for purposes of the FLSA.