Hiring Teens This Summer? Use These Guidelines To Comply with Child Labor Laws

Many compliance challenges can arise when hiring seasonal workers. If you plan on hiring anyone under 18 this summer, you should be very familiar with the child labor limitations prescribed under state and federal law. Such limitations include: the maximum number of hours a minor may work per day; the maximum number of hours and/or days a minor may work per week; restrictions on the times of day during which minors may work; and outright prohibitions forbidding minors from working in certain occupations. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the most sweeping federal law that governs the employment of child workers. Except in rare cases in which a business is not covered by the FLSA, an employer must comply with the federal requirements if they are more favorable to the employee than state requirements.

Federal Child Labor Laws
The applicable limitations and restrictions depend in part upon the employee’s age, and the employer bears the risk of misjudging how old a minor is. In non-agricultural work, the FLSA allows the employment of minors who are at least 16 in any activity that falls outside of the U.S. Department of Labor’s “Hazardous Occupations” orders. The FLSA doesn’t restrict the number of hours a minor aged 16 or older may work; however, as explained below, NYS Labor Law does.

Moreover, the federal regulations specify that children 14-15 years old can only work in certain occupations.  In these permitted occupations, such children may work only within specific times-of-day limitations. While school is out for the summer, they are permitted to work no earlier than 7 a.m. and no later than 9 p.m. However, there are also restrictions on the total hours they may work. Hours worked by 14- and 15-year-olds are limited to 8 hours on a non-school day and 40 hours on a non-school week.

Except for a few, narrowly-applied exemptions (such as those for child performers and newspaper carriers), persons under the age of 14 cannot perform non-agricultural work. The FLSA authorizes civil penalties over $12,000 for each illegally-employed minor. 

NYS Child Labor Laws
In New York, the Division of Labor Standards enforces the statutes that govern the type of work permitted for minors and the maximum and prohibited hours of work for minors. The Division also inspects establishments to insure that minors under 18 have proper employment certificates, commonly referred to as Working Papers. In NYS, anyone under 18 must show an employment certificate before they can start working. This rule covers high school graduates and even minors who work for their parents. The only exception is for minors working the following jobs:
-Farming
-Caddying
-Babysitting
-Casual household chores/yard work at a home or non-profit organization

With the exception of child performer permits, school officials issue all working papers.

As mentioned above, some of New York’s child-labor limitations and requirements are stricter than the FLSA's.  Thus, New York employers must reference and be familiar with the child labor provisions of the New York Labor Law when deciding whether and in what capacity to hire a minor. For a chart summarizing the permitted working hours provisions of the NYS Labor Law relating to minors, click here.