In April, the U.S. Department of Labor published a proposal to update the portion of the FLSA concerning teenaged workers. The proposed changes are expected to provide additional protection for young workers.
The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that it will update the federal child labor laws for the 21st century. The Department of Labor is seeking comments on these proposed changes and a number of other issues related to the employment of youth. All of the occupations under consideration are non-agricultural. Any comments should be submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Submission may be done electronically
Employers should keep in mind that any changes under this plan will apply to the federal laws, not the California child labor laws. The federal child labor laws are part of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Passed in 1932, the FLSA was the first comprehensive federal law to protect young workers. Prior to its passage, it was common for children as young as 8 years old to be employed for 10 to 12 hours per day in mills and factories. They frequently operated dangerous machinery, and sometimes worked all day without a meal break. The FLSA is the same law that established a federal minimum wage, and governs overtime pay for those who work more than 40 hours per week.
Key new provisions under these changes will prohibit young people ages 14 and 15 from participating in door-to-door sales, also known as youth peddling activities. It’s important to note that young people would still be allowed to sell candy, magazines, cookies and similar items for their school or favorite charity. The law simply prohibits employers from hiring young people for such activities.
In general, the FLSA allows 14 and 15 year olds to work only in certain occupations that are explicitly approved by the Secretary of Labor. In addition, such employment must not interfere with the youngster’s schooling or health and well-being. On the other hand, 16 and 17 year olds may work in any occupation except those that have been found to be “particularly hazardous” or “detrimental to their health or well-being”. Under the proposed changes, firefighting would fall into that category of prohibited occupations for those under the age of 18.
A Sacramento cooperative was recently awarded $2 million to study California child labor among migrant workers. The project is to develop and pilot a national demonstration that offers improved education to the children of migrant farm workers. In addition, the program will provide opportunities in alternative work experience for migrant youth. Eventually, the successful program will be expanded throughout the country.
The $2 million award, made by the US Dept. of Labor, went to La Cooperativa Campesina de California, a non-profit organization in Sacramento. More than two dozen organizations nationwide competed to win the awards. Awards were also made to two other organizations, under the same program. Michigan State University received a grant worth just under $1.8 million, while Rural Opportunities of Rochester, New York received a $1.25 million grant. The projects will run for a period of 12 months.
The purpose of the grants is to develop and pilot demonstrations that offer career choices to the children of migrant farm workers. Often, the children of migrant workers have few opportunities to attend school. Many are kept out of school and work during the picking or planting seasons, in violation of state and federal child labor laws. This program will help migrant children receive a better education.
Many migrant children have limited career choices when they grow up. This is the result of a poor education, and a lack of knowledge about other occupations and ways of life. Under this program, migrant youth will receive career assessment and work in internships in various industries. Promoters hope that these opportunities will give migrant youth a broader selection of career choices.
The program is designed to reduce incentives for migrant children to work in violation of California child labor laws. In addition, the program will provide incentives for children to attend summer school, if required to advance in school, instead of working.
While looking at the laws pertaining to child labor in various states, I have found that California is one of many states requires an extra step for minors under the age of 18 who wish to work. Minors must get an employment permit if they wish to work in the state of California.
In California, permits to work are issued by the minor’s school. An exception to this is the entertainment industry, where the permit must be issued instead by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. Minors who have graduated from high school or who are self employed are exempt from having to get a permit. I also learned that minors engaged in “odd jobs” in private homes – such as babysitting, lawn care or housework – are exempt from the work permit requirements.
California’s law pertaining to the work hours of 14 and 15 year olds is very similar to the federal law. While school is in session, minors of this age may not work during school hours. They are allowed to work up to three hours per day on school days, but this work must be between the hours of 7am and 7pm. The total hours per week must not exceed 18. During the summer months (defined as June 1st through Labor Day), a 14 or 15 year old minor may work between 7am and 9pm. However, a minor of this age may still work no more than 40 hours per week or 8 hours per day during the summer months.
Unlike the Federal law, the California Child Labor Law does place restrictions on the work hours of 16 and 17 year olds. Minors of this age may only work four hours per day on school days, and up to 8 hours per day on non-school days. The total weekly work hours of a 16 or 17 year old must be less than 48. Work hours for 16 and 17 year olds must be between 5am and 10pm, unless it’s not a school night. On nights preceding non-school days, a minor of this age may work until 12:30am.
California’s law parallel’s the federal law in most aspects regarding the types of work minors are allowed to undertake. Minors who are 14 and 15 are limited to less hazardous duties such as clerical work, sales, clean up work, and food preparation that does not involve significant cooking. All minors under 18 are prohibited from occupations deemed hazardous by federal regulations, such as mining and logging.
The California Complete Labor Law poster provides all of the required state and federal information all on one convenient poster for employees to view.