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The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), as amended, protects young workers from employment that might interfere with their educational opportunities or be detrimental to their health or well- being.

The FLSA applies to most of the workers in the U.S. It covers all workers who are engaged in or producing goods for interstate commerce or who are employed in certain enterprises.

Child Labor Standards for 16- and 17-Year-old Youths

Youths aged 16 and 17 may work at any time for unlimited hours in all jobs not declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. Hazardous occupations include: working with explosives and radioactive materials; operating certain power-driven woodworking metalworking, bakery, and paper products machinery; operating various types of power-driven saws and guillotine shears; operating most power-driven hoisting apparatus such as non-automatic elevators, fork lifts, and cranes; most jobs in slaughtering, meat packing, rendering plants, and the operation of power-driven meat processing machines when performed in wholesale, retail or service establishments; most jobs in excavation, logging, and sawmilling; roofing, wrecking, demolition, and shipbreaking; operating motor vehicles or working as outside helpers on motor vehicles; and most jobs in the manufacturing of bricks, tiles, and similar products.

Exemptions from some of the hazardous occupations orders apply for apprentices and students in vocational education programs.

Child Labor Standards for 14- and 15-Year-old Youths

Youths aged 14 and 15 may work in various jobs outside school hours under the following conditions: no more than 3 hours on a school day with a limit of 18 hours in a school week; no more than 8 hours on a nonschool day with a limit of 40 hours in a nonschool week; and not before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when the evening hour is extended to 9 p.m.

Workers 14 and 15 years of age may be employed in a variety of jobs: office work; various food service jobs, including cashiering, waiting on tables, washing dishes, and pre-paring salads and other food (although cooking is permitted only at snack bars, soda fountains, lunch counters, and cafeteria serving counters); sales work and other jobs in retail stores; errand and delivery work by foot, bicycle, and public transportation; dispensing gasoline and oil and performing courtesy services in gas stations; and most cleanup work.

Minors who are 14 and 15 years old may not work in the following jobs: manufacturing, mining, most processing work, and all occupations declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor; operating or tending most power-driven machinery; public messenger service; and work connected with warehousing, storage, transportation, communications, public utilities, and construction (except office and sales jobs when not performed on transportation vehicles or on construction sites).

Youths under 14 may work only if their jobs are exempt from the child labor standards or not covered by the FLSA. Exempt work includes: delivery of newspapers to consumers; performing in theatrical, motion picture, or broadcast productions; and work in a business owned by parents of the minor, except in manufacturing or hazardous occupations.

All states have child labor laws; when both state and federal child labor laws apply, the law setting the more stringent standard must be observed.

Federal law does not require age certificates or work permits. Employers may protect themselves from unintentional violations of the child labor laws by keeping on file an age certificate or work permit for each minor employed. Certificates and permits issued under most state laws are acceptable for this purpose.

The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Labor Department's Employment Standards Administration enforces the federal child labor 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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