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The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), as amended, sets standards for child labor in agriculture. These standards differ from those for nonfarm jobs.

To which agricultural workers does the FLSA apply?

The FLSA covers employees whose work involves production of agricultural goods which will leave the state directly or indirectly and become a part of interstate commerce.

What are the minimum age standards for agricultural employment?

Youths aged 16 and above may work in any farm job at any time.

Youths aged 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in jobs not declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.

Youths aged 12 and 13 may work outside school hours in jobs not declared hazardous. They must be employed on the same farm as their parents, or have written parental consent to work elsewhere.

Youths under 12 years of age may not work on farms employing workers covered by the minimum wage provisions of the FLSA. On other farms, they may work in nonhazardous jobs outside school hours with written parental consent.

Local youths 10 and 11 may hand harvest short-season crops outside school hours for no more than 8 weeks between June 1 and October 15 if their employers have obtained special waivers from the Secretary of Labor. Youths of any age may work at any time in any job on a farm owned or operated by their parents.

What are the hazardous occupations in agriculture?

Minors under 16 may not work in the following occupations declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor:

-- operating a tractor of over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement or any of its parts to or from such a tractor;

-- operating or working with a corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, mobile pea viner, feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor, unloading mechanism of a nongravity-type self-unload-ing wagon or trailer, power post-hole digger, power post driver, or nonwalking-type rotary tiller;

-- operating or working with a trencher or earthmoving equipment, fork lift, potato combine, or power-driven circular, band, or chain saw;

-- working in a yard, pen, or stall occupied by a bull, boar, or stud horse maintained for breeding purposes; a sow with suckling pigs; or a cow with a newborn calf (with umbilical cord present).

-- felling, bucking, skidding, loading, or unloading timber with a butt diameter of more than 6 inches;

-- working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet;

-- driving a bus, truck, or automobile to transport passengers or riding on a tractor as a passenger or helper;

-- working inside the following: a fruit, forage, or grain storage facility designed to retain an oxygen-deficient or toxic atmosphere; an upright silo within 2 weeks after silage has been added or when a top unloading device is in operating position; a manure pit; or a horizontal silo while operating a tractor for packing purposes;

-- handling or applying pesticides;

-- handling or using explosives; and

-- transporting, transferring, or applying anhydrous ammonia.

The prohibition on employment in hazardous occupations does not apply to youths employed on farms owned or operated by their parents. In addition there are some exemptions from the prohibitions:

-- 14 and 15-year-old student learners enrolled in vocational agriculture programs are exempt from some of the hazardous occupations when certain requirements are met;

-- minors aged 14 and 15 who hold certificates of completion of training under a 4-H or vocational agriculture training program may work outside school hours on equipment for which they have been trained, listed in some of the hazardous occupations.

What if State child labor standards differ from federal standards?

Many states have laws setting standards for child labor in agriculture. When both State and federal child labor laws apply, the law setting the more stringent standard must be observed.

Who enforces the federal child labor laws?

The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Labor Department's Employment Standards Administration enforces the laws. Employers may be fined up to $10,000 for each minor who is the subject of a child labor violation.

For more information...
Contact the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division, listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government, Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration.

This is one of a series of fact sheets highlighting U.S. Department of Labor Programs. It is intended as a general description only and does not carry the force of legal opinion.

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