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The Summer Jobs+ Initiative vs. Child Labor Laws


"America's young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they've got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job. It's important for their future, and for America's…. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. That's why today, we're launching Summer Jobs+, a joint initiative that challenges business leaders and communities to join my Administration in providing hundreds of thousands of summer jobs for America's youth" — President Barack Obama

With unemployment at an all time high, the U.S. Labor Department (DOL) will be launching new tools to implement President Obama's Summer Jobs+ initiative in the coming months. While two of the three components are designed to build life and work skills, the third component is aimed at providing on-the-job training and summer jobs. The program is targeted to serve low-income and "disconnected" youth (those not in school or working).

Although the Summer Jobs+ program targets one segment of the minor workforce, the goal is for these kids to take their tools and experiences into the job market. Over the years hospitality employers, such as restaurants, have been particularly good about hiring younger workers.

With this renewed focus on employing youth, employers in general should refresh themselves with the labor laws surrounding the employment of minors, regardless of whether your business is associated with the Summer Jobs+ initiative. An employer unfamiliar with the child labor laws may unwittingly find their summer spoiled.

While the DOL is the sole federal agency charged with enforcement of child labor laws, most states have enacted similar legislation and enforcement mechanisms. In some instances, the state law is much more restrictive than the federal regulations. This may present particular challenges for employers that operate in multiple states, as a one-size-fits-all approach to child labor won't work.

Limits Apply Even On Non-School Nights

Federal law currently prohibits 14- and 15-year olds from working during school hours. Additionally, they may only work up to three hours a day and 18 hours per week when school is in session, or up to eight hours a day and 40 hours per week when school is not in session. This is not the same thing as working on a school night.

This age group is also limited to working between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.; except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m. Employers sometimes mistakenly allow minors to work for more than three hours on a non-school nights, particularly Friday or Saturday nights.

Those 16 and older are not subject to work-hour restrictions under federal law. But 22 states do limit the number of hours and times of day those ages 16 and 17 may work. At least two states (Connecticut and Vermont) place limitations on work hours based upon certain industries.

Permitted And Prohibited Jobs For Minors

The child labor rules also determine what types of jobs a youth may or may not perform.

A 14- or 15-year-old may not work in jobs identified by the Secretary of Labor as "hazardous." The regulations further provide a list of jobs that are expressly restricted, which includes the following:

Jobs that 14- and 15 year-old workers may legally perform are limited to:

The Secretary of Labor has also deemed certain occupations to be hazardous for those ages 16-17. The rules prohibiting working in hazardous occupations apply either on an industry basis, or on an occupational basis regardless of the industry. Even parents employing their own children are subject to these rules. The following is prohibited:

Many states have further restricted the types of jobs or industries for young workers. Employers must follow the more restrictive statute.

Keeping Pace With Change

Federal and state child labor laws are complex and continue to evolve. Whether a job is permitted or prohibited often requires a case-by-case analysis. To keep minor employees safe and your company in full compliance with the law, you must become familiar with the relevant regulations.

For more information, contact the author at or 504.522.3303.


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