Hiring a minor (individual under the age of 18 years old) can make good business sense to many companies, and some jobs such as weekend and summer work, attract a high number of minor applicants. Nonetheless, employers must operate in compliance with a variety of labor laws and be knowledgeable of their responsibilities when using child labor. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of minors employed in violation of child labor laws in fiscal year 2022 increased 37% over fiscal year 2021.
Two recently introduced bills in Congress, the Child Labor Prevention Act and the Justice for Exploited Children Act would increase the penalties on employers who violate federal child labor laws. Currently, the maximum penalty is $15,138 for routine child labor violations and $68,801 for violations resulting in the serious injury of death of a minor. Both bills would raise penalties to:
- $5,000 minimum and $132,270 maximum for routine violations.
- $25,000 minimum and $601,150 maximum for each violation that causes the serious injury or death of a minor.
Child labor is regulated by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state labor laws. Typically, both the FLSA and state labor laws divide minors into two categories: those 14 to 15 years old and those 16 to 17 years old. Younger workers have more restrictions on the types of jobs they can perform, as well as the number of hours they are allowed to work.
Recently, some state legislatures are considering bills that would relax child labor restrictions; however, if there seems to be a conflict between your state's child labor law and the FLSA, the stricter of the two prevails. For more information on your state's laws, visit your state Department of Labor's website.
Employers should verify the age of all minors in their employ. You may obtain an age certificate issued by the Wage and Hour division of the Department of Labor, although work permits are not required on the federal level. On the other hand, some states may require either the employer or the minor to obtain work permits through the state's Department of Labor.
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