Youth For Hire: Know the Child Labor Laws that Affect Both the Employer and the Employee
Spring 2008

As summer vacation approaches, young people throughout the Valley will be scanning the Help Wanted ads looking to earn a little gas money (or a lot of gas money). In the midst of this, a watchful parent might keep in mind restrictions the law places on employers for the protection of children.

As a prefatory note, this article is focused mainly upon employment outside the home. The following child labor laws do not apply to children employed by their parents or near relatives, provided that the work does not involve manufacturing or mining. Moreover, restrictions on children’s work activities and environments vary according to the age of the child.

First, no child may be employed to undertake any of the following jobs until he or she is 18 years old: manufacturing and storing explosives, mining, logging, anything involving exposure to radioactive substances, operating most power-driven equipment, slaughtering and meat-packing, demolition, roofing, and excavation. In addition, a minor may not be employed to operate a motor vehicle for more than a quarter of his shift, two hours, or 50 miles in a day.

Age is a critical factor in determining where our youth can begin their gainful employment. There are certain jobs your child may not perform at work unless he or she is at least 16 years old. These include: manufacturing, food processing, commercial laundering and dry cleaning, warehousing, construction, working in boiler rooms, working in furnace rooms, working in engine rooms, any work from a structure over five feet tall (including a ladder or scaffolding), cooking and baking (except soda fountains, lunch counters, snack bars and cafeterias), repair or maintenance of machines (except car washes and pumping fuel), and meat preparation. Children under 16 are prohibited from various agricultural tasks outside their family farm, including operating a tractor or other types of large agricultural machinery, attaching or detaching implements to a tractor, working in pens with certain animals involved in breeding, working with large timber, picking or pruning from a ladder more than eight feet tall, working in a fruit or grain storage area or a silo, and working with certain dangerous agricultural materials and chemicals. It is important to know that children under the age of 16 may not work more than 40 hours per week or eight hours per day, and they may not be at work after 11 p.m. or before 6 a.m., unless he or she has a paper route.

There are additional limitations on employment of children under the age of 16. Federal law prohibits employers who engage in business across state lines from employing children under 14 years old. There is an exception to this for children working on the family farm, or 12- and 13-year-olds working at a farm either with their parents’ written consent or alongside their parents. Also, in Arizona, a child may not sell newspapers in public if he or she is less than 10 years old.

Finally, in the event that your child wishes to maintain his or her employment after the school year commences, bear in mind that restrictions on child labor are more stringent when school is in session, especially with respect to the hours a child may work.

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