Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Without child labor laws, like the
FLSA, youth workers may not be protected from working long hours or
from exposure to the hazards of working at dangerous jobs. Child
labor laws include both state and federal laws.
Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.
Follow the Fair Labor Standards Act including:
Federal child labor rules are established by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA child labor provisions are designed to protect the educational opportunities of youth and prohibit their employment in jobs and under conditions detrimental to their health or safety. Once a young worker reaches age 18, federal child labor rules no longer apply.
What hours can youth work and at what kinds of jobs?
- Youth 18 years or older may perform any job, whether hazardous or not.
- Youth 16- or 17-years-old may perform any non-hazardous job for unlimited hours. Hazardous jobs are included below.
- Work hours and jobs are limited for 14 and 15-year-olds.
- The Wage and Hour Division is making available a downloadable bookmark in both English and Spanish versions to remind youth of the hours and jobs they may work.
- Employer's Pocket Guide for Youth Employment [95 KB PDF, 12 pages]. The Department of Labor(DOL) Employer's Brochure provides more information on hours permitted and jobs permitted for employers of youth workers.
Hazardous Jobs (non-agricultural occupations):
The Secretary of Labor has determined that certain jobs are too hazardous for young workers under the age of 18 to perform. Young workers younger than 18
may not work in or with the following Hazardous Occupations (HO). They are listed by Hazardous Occupation Number:
*Limited apprentice/student-learner exemptions apply to these occupations.
Employment Standard Administration Wage and Hour -Additional Fact Sheets and Guides:
For more information see Resources - State Laws, or
Child Labor Laws.
- More information about Hazardous Occupation orders can be
Remember child labor laws prohibit young workers under the age of 18
from operating hazardous equipment such as:
- Power-driven meat slicers and meat grinders. This
prohibition remains in effect regardless of the materials
being processed. For example, slicing vegetables or
cheese, with power-driven meat slicers is not allowed.
- Paper balers and cardboard compactors.
- Power-driven bakery equipment, such as horizontal or
vertical dough mixers, batter mixers, and dough sheeters.
- Power-driven woodworking equipment, including chain saws
and circular saws.
- Freight elevators.
- Other machines specifically prohibited by the youth employment hazardous occupations orders.
Child labor laws and the driving of
Sixteen-year-olds may not perform any on-the-job driving on public
Seventeen-year-olds may perform limited on-the-job driving,
but only after certain requirements have been met. In no event,
may such youth be employed as delivery drivers, even on a sporadic
basis. This prohibition in no way restricts youths from driving their
personal vehicles during non-work hours. For more information
**Child labor law
and balers and compactors:
Child labor law changes in 1996 allow 16- and 17-year-olds to
load certain balers and compactors but not operate or unload. For
more information see:
- The DOL encourages employers to label
equipment young workers are not allowed to
website has available
downloadable stickers for employers to place on hazardous equipment to alert all workers that no one under age 18 may operate the equipment.
- The jobs a 14- or 15-year-old may do in
the retail and service industries include:
- Seating and greeting guests.
- Taking food orders and "bussing" tables.
- Cooking at soda fountains, lunch counters, snack bars, or
cafeteria serving counters which are in plain view of the
- Assembling and bagging orders at quick-service
- Kitchen work and other work involved in preparing and serving food and
drinks, including the operation of machines and devices used in
the performance of such work such as dishwashers, toasters,
dumbwaiters, popcorn poppers, milk shake blenders, and coffee
grinders, but not cooking or baking.
- Cleaning fruits and vegetables.
- Wrapping, weighing, pricing, stocking any goods as long as
the young worker does not work where meat is being prepared and
does not work in freezers or meat coolers.
- Pricing and tagging goods, assembling orders, packing, or
- Clean-up work and grounds maintenance. The young worker may
use vacuums and floor waxers, but cannot use
power-driven mowers, cutter, and trimmers.
- Errand and delivery work by foot, bicycle, and public transportation.
- Office and clerical work.
- A 14- or 15-year-old may not work in the
manufacturing or mining industries, or in any
hazardous job and may not perform
jobs in the
food service industry such as:
- Cooking (except at soda fountains, lunch counters, snack
bars, or cafeteria serving counters).
- Working in freezers or meat coolers.
- Operating, setting up, adjusting, cleaning, oiling, or
repairing power-driven food slicers, grinders, choppers or
cutters, and bakery mixers.
- May not operate Neico broilers, pressurized fryers,
rotisseries, lawn mowers and "weed whackers."
- Loading or unloading goods on or off trucks, railcars or
- Outside window washing that involves working form window
sills and all work that requires the use of ladders or their
- Work in connection with maintenance or repair of the
establishment, machines, or equipment.