Child Labor Laws in Agriculture: What You Need To Know
Updated: Jul 17
By Ashley Ellixson
Like many from agriculture families, I grew up working summers or even weekends on my family’s dairy. Working as a 12 year old may seem foreign to many but in the agriculture industry, it is a very common practice. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to ask, “Is this legal?” or “Are there laws I should know about in order to have the neighbor kids work here over the summer?” If you have, you are not the first and if you haven’t, you’re also in for a treat! Today I will go over basic laws and regulations of child labor in the agriculture industry so you can make sure that you’re protecting yourself and farm operation.
First, laws governing child employment in agriculture are different from the laws governing child employment in other industries. Unlike the rules governing nonagricultural employment, most child labor provisions applicable to agricultural employment are statutory. Under Federal law:
• A child working in agriculture on a farm owned or operated by his or her parent is exempted from Federal agricultural child labor provisions.
• Young farmworkers who are not the children of the farmer employing them are subject to Federal child labor provisions that differ by age:
· Youths are no longer subject to the Federal agricultural child labor provisions when they reach 16 years of age.
· Children aged 14 or 15 may perform any nonhazardous (see photo entitled EXHIBIT 2.4 for a list of “hazardous” occupations) farm job outside of school hours, and with proper training and certification, they also may perform certain hazardous duties.
· Children aged 12 or 13 may be employed outside of school hours in nonhazardous jobs, but only on the farm on which their parent works or with the written consent of a parent.
· Children under 12 may be employed outside of school hours in nonhazardous jobs on farms not subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage if their parent is also employed on that farm or has given consent.
· Children aged 10 or 11 may be employed to hand-harvest short- season crops outside of school hours under special waivers granted by the U.S. Department of Labor.
As directed by the FLSA, the Secretary of Labor has found and declared certain agricultural tasks to be particularly hazardous for employees below the age of 16. The Agriculture Hazardous Occupations Orders (HO/As) are contained in section 570.71 of Regulations, 29 CFR Part 570. As noted, farmworkers as young as 14 years of age may perform some tasks otherwise prohibited by the Agricultural Hazardous Occupations Orders after completing or participating in certain vocational training programs.
The FLSA prohibits hired farmworkers under 16 years of age from working during school hours, but does not give the Secretary of Labor authority to prohibit their employment during other times of the day or limit the number of daily or weekly hours they may be employed. (See http://www.bls.gov/opub/rylf/pdf/chapter2.pdf for more information and details concerning agriculture child labor laws).