Child Labor Law

Child Labor Laws and Regulations

Federal and state child labor laws and regulations are multi-faceted and complex. Various laws and regulations address and provide guidance regarding the ages at which children may commence certain types of work, the conditions to such work, and the various limitations and restrictions that govern the details of their work in the workplace. The attorneys with our Firm are knowledgeable in the field of child labor laws and regulations and routinely advise various clients as to their respective rights and obligations in this area of law.

Age Restrictions and the Parental Exemption

Generally, under federal law, children must be at least 14 years old to work. See 29 C.F.R. § 570.31. However, a parental exemption allows children under the age of 14 to work for businesses in which they are employees under the strict supervision of their parent. The federal regulation reads, in relevant part, as follows:

“By the parenthetical phrase included in section 3(l)(1) of the Act, a parent or a person standing in place of a parent may employ his own child or a child in his custody under the age of 16 years in any occupation other than the following: (a) Manufacturing; (b) mining; (c) an occupation found by the Secretary to be particularly hazardous or detrimental to health or well-being for children between the ages of 16 and 18 years. This exemption may apply only in those cases where the child is exclusively employed by his parent or a person standing in his parents’ place.”

29 C.F.R. § 570.126. And, under Missouri law, children who are “working under the direct control of the child's parent” may work regardless of age. § 294.011(7) RSMo.

Given these laws and regulations, parents in Missouri with their own businesses may view the parental exemption as a green light to hire their children at any age. However, it is important to keep in mind that a federal or state department of labor (or other government agency) may still audit a business or employment arrangement to ensure compliance with these child labor laws. Such an audit is not unusual when a business employs an individual under the age of 14.

Work Hours

Federal regulations set forth limitations on hours worked by children who are 14 and 15 years of age (and who are not employees of their parents). This regulation reads, in relevant part:

Hours standards. Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, employment in any of the permissible occupations to which this subpart is applicable shall be confined to the following periods:

  1. Outside of school hours;
  1. Not more than 40 hours in any 1 week when school is not in session;
  1. Not more than 18 hours in any 1 week when school is in session;
  1. Not more than 8 hours in any 1 day when school is not in session;
  1. Not more than 3 hours in any 1 day when school is in session, including Fridays;
  1. Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. in any 1 day, except during the summer (June 1 through Labor Day) when the evening hour will be 9 p.m."

29 C.F.R. § 570.35. But, for employees who are 16 and 17 years old, no such restrictions on maximum hours worked apply, unless the employees are engaged in occupations that have been declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. See 29 C.F.R. §§ 570.117, 570.118, 570.50, et seq.

Work Restrictions

FLSA regulations address what is considered hazardous in terms of child labor in a variety of different industries. Children under 16 employed by one or both parents cannot perform duties “particularly hazardous or detrimental to health or well-being for children between the ages of 16 and 18 years,” such as mining or manufacturing. 29 C.F.R. § 570.126. These hazardous occupations are described in detail in the regulations and include coal mine jobs, the manufacture or storage of explosives, operation of wood-working machines, working in meat-processing, handling certain cooking activities and equipment in bakeries, engaging in roofing work, and more. See 29 C.F.R. § 570.50, et seq.

FLSA regulations state that minors who are 14 or 15 years of age may not engage in certain types of work or occupations. See 29 C.F.R. § 570.33. However, some of these restrictions have important exceptions built into them. For example, while such minors may not engage in “[a]ll baking and cooking activities” in a bakery, the regulation explicitly references an exception to that restriction. See 29 C.F.R. § 570.33(h). And Section 570.34(c) provides that exception. Id. Section 570.34(c) permits minors who are 14 and 15 years of age to “cook[] with electric or gas grills which does not involve cooking over an open flame.” 29 C.F.R. § 570.34(c). The regulation also permits “[c]ooking…with deep fryers that are equipped with and utilize a device which automatically lowers the baskets into the hot oil or grease and automatically raises the baskets from the hot oil or grease.” 29 C.F.R. § 570.34(c). The regulation also addresses other non-cooking related tasks that such minors may perform, such as food preparation, clean-up work, and bagging and carrying out orders.

FLSA regulations also prohibit minors (children under 18) from working with, among other things, circular saws, band saws, guillotine shears, chain saws, reciprocating saws, and wood chippers. See 29 C.F.R. § 570.65. These are but a few of the items minors are prohibited from working with under the FLSA regulations, as stated in 29 C.F.R. § 570.

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Child labor laws and regulations are complicated, nuanced, and extensive. If you have a question or concern regarding the nature and scope of your rights and obligations in the field of child labor law, contact us by phone at (314) 645-4100 or by email at

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