Employment Law Guide
Wages and Hours Worked: Child Labor Protections (Nonagricultural Work)
- Who Is Covered
- Basic Provisions/Requirements
- Employee Rights
- Recordkeeping, Reporting, Notices and Posters
- Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws
- Compliance Assistance Available
- DOL Contacts
Updated: December 2016
Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), as amended (PDF)(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/statutes/FairLaborStandAct.pdf)
(29 USC §201 et seq.(http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/29/201.html); 29 CFR Parts 570 to 580(https://www.dol.gov/dol/cfr/Title_29/Chapter_V.htm))
Who is Covered
The child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are administered by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD). These provisions are designed to protect the educational opportunities of minors and to prohibit their employment in jobs and under conditions detrimental to their health and well‑being. In nonagricultural work, the child labor provisions apply to enterprises with employees engaging in interstate commerce, producing goods for interstate commerce, or handling, selling, or working on goods or materials that have been moved in or produced for interstate commerce. For most firms, an annual dollar volume of business test of not less than $500,000 applies.
Employees of firms that do not meet the $500,000 annual dollar volume test may be subject to the FLSA’s child labor provisions in any workweek in which they are individually engaged in interstate commerce, the production of goods for interstate commerce, or an activity that is closely related and directly essential to the production of such goods.
The Act covers the following employers regardless of their dollar volume of business: hospitals; institutions primarily engaged in the care of the sick, aged, mentally ill, or disabled who reside on the premises; schools for children who are mentally or physically disabled, or gifted; preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education; and Federal, state, and local government agencies.
While 16 is the minimum age for most nonfarm work, minors aged 14 and 15 may work outside of school hours in certain occupations under certain conditions. Minors may, at any age: deliver newspapers; perform in radio, television, movies, or theatrical productions; work for their parents in their solely owned nonfarm businesses (except in mining, manufacturing, or in any other occupation declared hazardous by the Secretary); or gather evergreens and make evergreen wreaths.
The child labor provisions of the Act include restrictions on hours of work and occupations for youths under age 16. These provisions also set forth 17 hazardous occupations orders for jobs that the Secretary has declared too dangerous for those under age 18 to perform.
The permissible jobs and hours of work, by age, in nonfarm work are as follows:
- Minors age 18 or older are not subject to restrictions on jobs or hours
- Minors age 16 and 17 may perform any job not declared hazardous by the Secretary, and are not subject to restrictions on hours
- Minors age 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in various nonmanufacturing, non-mining, nonhazardous jobs listed by the Secretary in regulations published at 29 CFR Part 570 under the following conditions: no more than three hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, eight hours on a non-school day, or 40 hours in a non-school week. In addition, they may not begin work before 7 a.m. or work after 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended until 9 p.m. The permissible work for 14 and 15 year olds is limited to those jobs specifically listed in the Secretary’s regulations. WHD’s regulations provide some exceptions to these limitations on hours worked for 14 and 15 year olds enrolled in an approved Work Experience and Career Exploration Program (WECEP) or Work Study Program (WSP).
By regulation, employers must keep records of the dates of birth of employees under age 19, their daily starting and quitting times, their daily and weekly hours of work, and their occupations. The FLSA provides that an employer that has on file an officially-issued employment or age certificate showing that the minor is the minimum age required by the FLSA is not liable for violating the child labor provisions if that documentation proves to be incorrect. Age or employment certificates issued under most state laws are generally acceptable for this purpose. See 29 CFR 570.5.
The FLSA also gives an employee the right to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division and testify or in other ways cooperate with an investigation or legal proceeding without being fired or discriminated against in any other manner.
Recordkeeping, Reporting, Notices and Posters
Notices and Posters
Every employer of employees subject to the FLSA’s minimum wage provisions must post, and keep posted, a notice(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsa.htm) explaining the Act in a conspicuous place in all of their establishments. Although there is no size requirement for the poster, employees must be able to readily read it. The FLSA poster is also available in Spanish(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsaspan.htm), Chinese(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwagecn.pdf), Russian(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/FLSAPosterRuss.pdf), Thai,(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/MinWageThai.pdf) Hmong,(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/MinWageHmong.pdf) Vietnamese(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwageViet.pdf), and Korean(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwageKorean.pdf). There is no requirement to post the poster in languages other than English(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsa.htm).
Covered employers are required to post the general Fair Labor Standards Act poster; however, certain industries have posters designed specifically for them. Employers of Agricultural Employees (PDF)(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/wh1386Agrcltr.pdf) and State & Local Government Employees (PDF)(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/wh1385State.pdf) can either post the general Fair Labor Standards Act poster(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/flsa.htm) or their specific industry poster. There are also posters for American Samoa (PDF)(https://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/americanSamoa/ASminwagePoster.pdf) and Northern Mariana Islands (PDF)(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/cnmi.pdf).
Every employer who employs workers with disabilities under special minimum wage certificates is also required to post the Employee Rights for Workers with Disabilities/Special Minimum Wage Poster(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/disab.htm).
Every employer covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must keep certain records for each covered(/elaws/whd/flsa/overtime/glossary.htm?wd=covered), nonexempt(/elaws/whd/flsa/overtime/glossary.htm?wd=non_exempt) worker.
There is no required form for the records. However, the records must include accurate information about the employee and data about the hours worked and the wages earned. The following is a listing of the basic payroll records that an employer must maintain:
- Employee's full name, as used for Social Security purposes, and on the same record, the employee's identifying symbol or number if such is used in place of name on any time, work, or payroll records
- Address, including zip code
- Birth date, if younger than 19
- Sex and occupation
- Time and day of week when employee's workweek begins
- Hours worked each day and total hours worked each workweek
- Basis on which employee's wages are paid (e.g., "$9 per hour", "$440 a week", "piecework")
- Regular hourly pay rate
- Total daily or weekly straight-time earnings
- Total overtime earnings for the workweek
- All additions to or deductions from the employee's wages
- Total wages paid each pay period
- Date of payment and the pay period covered by the payment
For a full listing of the basic records that an employer must maintain, see the Wage and Hour Division Fact Sheet #21: Recordkeeping Requirements under the FLSA(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs21.pdf). Employers are required to preserve for at least three years payroll records, collective bargaining agreements, and sales and purchase records. Records on which wage computations are based should be retained for two years. These include time cards and piecework tickets, wage rate tables, work and time schedules, and records of additions to or deductions from wages.
The FLSA does not contain any specific reporting requirements; however, the above referenced records must be open for inspection by the Wage and Hour Division's representatives, who may ask the employer to make extensions, computations, or transcriptions. The records may be kept at the place of employment or in a central records office.
The child labor “hot goods” provision of the Act prohibits the shipment or delivery of goods in interstate commerce that were produced in or about an establishment where a child labor violation occurred in the past 30 days. It is also a violation of the Act to fire or in any other manner discriminate against an employee for filing a complaint or for participating in a legal proceeding under the Act.
Employers are subject to a civil money penalty of up to $11,000 per worker for each violation of the child labor provisions. In addition, employers are subject to a civil money penalty of $50,000 for each violation occurring after May 21, 2008 that causes the death or serious injury of any minor employee – such penalty may be doubled, up to $100,000, when the violations are determined to be willful or repeated. When a civil money penalty is assessed, employers have the right to file an exception to the determination within 15 days of receipt of the notice of such penalty. When an exception is filed, it is referred to an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing and determination as to whether the penalty is appropriate. Either party may appeal the decision of the Administrative Law Judge to the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board. If an exception is not filed within the 15 days, the penalty becomes final.
The Act also provides for a criminal fine of up to $10,000 upon conviction for a willful violation. For a second conviction for a willful violation, the Act provides for a fine of not more than $10,000 and imprisonment for up to six months, or both. The Secretary may also bring suit to obtain injunctions to restrain persons from violating the Act.
Relation to State, Local, and Other Federal Laws
Many states have child labor laws. Nothing in the FLSA excuses noncompliance with a state law that establishes a higher standard than that provided in the FLSA. See 29 U.S.C. 218(a).
Compliance Assistance Available
The Department of Labor provides employers, workers, and others with clear and easy-to-access information and assistance on how to comply with the FLSA. Among the many resources available are:
- The Handy Reference Guide to the FLSA(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/hrg.htm)
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Coverage and Employment Status Advisor(/elaws/whd/flsa/scope/screen9.asp): Helps employers and employees understand and determine coverage of employees under the FLSA.
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Child Labor Rules Advisor(/elaws/whd/flsa/cl/default.htm): Helps young workers and their employers, parents, and educators understand the FLSA's child labor provisions, which dictate the hours youth can work and the jobs they may and may not perform.
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Hours Worked Advisor(/elaws/whd/flsa/hoursworked/default.asp): Helps employers and employees determine which work-related activities are considered "hours worked" and thus hours for which employees must be paid.
- FLSA Recordkeeping Fact Sheet(https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs21.pdf): Explains recordkeeping requirements under the Act.
- Comprehensive FLSA Presentation (Microsoft® PowerPoint®)(https://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/comprehensive.ppt)
Additional compliance assistance, including explanatory brochures, fact sheets, and regulatory and interpretive materials, is available on the Wage and Hour Division Home Page(https://www.dol.gov/whd).
The Employment Law Guide is offered as a public resource. It does not create new legal obligations and it is not a substitute for the U.S. Code, Federal Register, and Code of Federal Regulations as the official sources of applicable law. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is complete and accurate as of the time of publication, and this will continue. Later versions of this Guide will be offered at www.dol.gov/compliance or by calling our Toll-Free Help Line at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365) (1-866-487-2365).