Fair Labor Standards Act And Child Labor: Limit Your Organization's Risk

Written exclusively for ChubbWorks

The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recently announced the results of an investigation into a Pennsylvania construction firm for multiple violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

WHD investigators uncovered evidence of child labor violations. Specifically, the employer assigned dangerous tasks to six minor employees, including roof work and operating power machinery.

In addition, the employer's procedure for recording hours resulted in a failure to pay appropriate wages. The employer kept one record for weekday work hours and another record for weekend work hours. However, because the employer did not combine the two records, they were unable to accurately determine time worked over 40 hours per week.

The employer received a court order to pay $132,000 in back wages and another $47,901 in civil penalties for willful violations of the FLSA. "US Department Of Labor Investigation Finds Bucks County Contractor Employed 5 Minors Illegally, Failed To Pay Overtime" www.dol.gov (Jul. 21, 2021).

Commentary and Checklist

The FLSA prohibits anyone under the age of 18 years from engaging in hazardous occupations, including roofing work on, or about a roof, and from operating woodworking machines (fixed or portable). The FLSA does allow for limited exceptions for minors enrolled in a legitimate apprentice program.

For non-agricultural work, here is the link to the FLSA rules for minors: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/childlabor101.pdf

And, for agricultural work, here is the link to the FLSA rules for minors:

https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/youthlabor/agriculturalemployment#:~:text=Parental%20exemption%3A%20Minors%20of%20any,enacted%20by%20the%20U.S.%20Congress.

Here are some of the restrictions under the FLSA:

  • The minimum age for most work is 14 years. The law does allow younger workers, with specific provisions, in agriculture, the entertainment industry, family businesses, and minor tasks like delivering newspapers or babysitting.
  • Employers are allowed to pay a youth minimum wage of $4.25 per hour to employees under the age of 20, but only for the first 90 days of employment. After 90 days, the standard minimum wage requirement must be met.
  • The FLSA's limits on the number of hours a child can work apply only to workers under age 16 and vary depending on school days/weeks versus non-school days/weeks. No work can be done during school hours.
  • The FLSA does not require a special permit for youth employment, but some state laws do have this legal requirement.
  • Every state has laws that deal with child labor. When federal and state laws differ, the standard that offers the most protection to youth workers will apply.
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