With summer approaching many employers will be hiring school-age children. While all employees are generally entitled to the same considerations and protections regardless of their age, the law extends additional protections to minor employees – those who are under the age of 18.
Both federal law and Minnesota law govern the employment of minors, namely the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Minnesota Child Labor Standards Act (CLSA). The express focus and concern of the CLSA is to “aid in the economic, social, and educational development of young people through employment.” In attaining this goal, it is recognized that such work “must be coordinated with schooling and safety considerations in order to serve the best interests of the young.” The FLSA’s mission is similar.
Minor employee protections may be separated into two categories – agricultural employment and non-agricultural employment. The focus of this article is on the employment of minors in the agricultural sector.
There are three sets of guidelines for the employment of minors in the agricultural sector upon which an employer must focus:
Age and Hour Restrictions
General Exception to the Rules. As with everything, there are exceptions to the rules, and the CLSA and FLSA are no different. The child labor restrictions with respect to age and hours do not apply to minors who are employed on a farm that is owned and operated by a parent or person standing in the place of a parent, provided they are not employed in a manufacturing or mining occupation.
- Ages 12 to 15 As a general proposition, children who are between the ages of 12 and 15, may work in agriculture only with the consent of the child’s parent or guardian, though their hours may be limited and as discussed later there may be limitations on the type of work they may perform.
- A minor under the age of 16 years may not work before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. and is also limited to working 40 hours a week and no more than 8 hours per 24 hour period unless the child’s parent or guardian has consented otherwise..
Once school resumes and if the employee remains employed, it is important to remember minors less than 16 years of age may not work on school days during school hours without a so-called employment certificate issued by the school district superintendent.
Federal law is more restrictive with respect to the hours worked, prohibiting a minor less than 16 years of age working past 7 p.m. and no more than 3 hours a day and not more than 18 hours per week. (When there is a conflict between Minnesota law and federal law, one looks to the law which imposes greater worker protection)
- Ages 16 and 17. Work hours for children who are at least 16 years of age may be employed in most any agricultural job with some restrictions as discussed below.
- For minors 16 and 17 years of age, work hours are governed by their school status. With respect to work hours, a high school student is not permitted to work after 11 p.m. on an evening before a school day or before 5 a.m. on a school day. (This does not apply to minors employed in corn de-tasseling operations and other agricultural operations with the permission of their parents or guardian.)
- These restrictions do not apply to a high school student who is 18 years of age or older unless the student provides a written request for the hours restriction to the employer or if the high school student under the age of 18 has supplied the employer with a note signed by the parent or the guardian of the student permitting the student to work until 11:30 p.m. on the evening before a school day and beginning at 4:30 a.m. on a school day.
A child of any age employed by his or her parent(s) at an agricultural operation that is owned and operated by the child’s parent or a child of a member of a family farm corporation may work in any occupation at the operation, whether hazardous or not. Not so for other minor employees working in agriculture.
The United States Secretary of Labor has set out a list of so-called hazardous occupations in which minors under 16 years of age may not engage. Prohibitions (though not exhaustive) particularly relevant to agricultural occupations, include:(1) the operation of a tractor over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement of any of its parts to or from such a tractor; (2) operating or working, among other things, a corn picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay bailer, mobile pea viner, feed grinder, dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor, unloading mechanism of a non-gravity self-loading wagon or trailer, power post-hole digger, power post driver, or non-walking type rotary tiller; (3) working in a yard, pen, or stall occupied by a bull, boar, or stud boars maintained for breeding purposes or where a sow with the suckling pigs is present, or a cow with a newborn calf (with umbilical cord present); (4) working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet; (5) working inside ,among other things a , forage, or grain storage designed to retain an oxygen-deficient or toxic atmosphere or an upright silo with two weeks after silage has been added or when a top unloading device is in operating position or a manure pit, or a horizontal silo while operating a tractor for packing purposes; (6) handling or applying toxic agricultural chemicals identified by the words “danger,” “poison,” or “warning,” or has a skull and crossbones on the label; (7) transporting, transferring, or applying anhydrous ammonia.
In addition to the owned or operated exemption, 14 and 15 year old student learners enrolled in a vocational agricultural program are exempt from the application of some of these prohibitions if the hold certificates of completion of training under a 4-H or vocational agricultural training program.
For minors under 16 years of age, Minnesota law prohibits the operation or assistance in the operation of machinery to include farm type tractors and other self-propelled vehicles, except for those minors who have trained under either 4-H Federal Extension Service or the U.S. Office of Education Vocational Agriculture Training Programs. Minors under the age of 16 are also prohibited from using sidewalk type snow blowers and other-power-driven lawn and garden equipment; prohibited from oiling, cleaning, or maintaining any power-driven machinery; or working in any occupation in agriculture that the U.S. Secretary of Labor finds and declares to be particularly hazardous for the employment of children below the age of 16.
Minnesota also prohibits certain employment of minors under age 18 years old. Some of those that related to agricultural operations generally focus on power-driven machinery, motor vehicles, construction or building projects and the like.
Proof of Age Required
An employer must obtain proof of age of minor employees or prospective minor employees by way of: an age certificate issued by the school superintendent of the district in which the applicant resides; or copy of the minor’s birth certificate; or copy of the minor’s driver’s license; or, a Form I-9. The employer must keep the proof of age on file during the course of the employee’s employment.
Employment certificates may be issued to any minor 14 or 15 years of age who wishes to work on school days during school hours and may only be issued by the school district superintendent or the superintendent’s agent. An employment certificate will only be issued for a specific position with a designated employer and may only be issued if: (1) the minor is to be employed in an occupation not prohibited by law and presents a signed statement to that effect from the prospective employer; (2) and the parent or guardian of the minor consents to the employment; and (3) the issuing officer believes the minor is physically capable of handling the job in question and also believes that the best interests of the minor will be served by permitting the minor to work.
An employer may employ 14, 15, 16 or 17 year olds subject to certain guidelines:
- 14 and 15 year old minors must have the consent of a parent or guardian to pursue work at an agricultural operation.
- A minor employee less than the age of 14 may be employed if the minor is the employer’s son or daughter and the employer owns the operation and the son or daughter is under the employer’s supervision.
- If the individual is not an employer’s son or daughter and not under the parent’s supervision, if the minor employee is 14 or 15, he or she is limited as to the type of job he or she may perform and the hours which he or she may work.
- 16 and 17 year old minors also are restricted in the type of job he or she may perform and the hours during the work may be performed, though the rules are less restrictive than those for 14 and 15 year olds.
- Before hiring, an employer must confirm the age of the minor.
- There are restrictions on types of jobs that may be performed by minors identified by both Minnesota and federal law.
- Failure to abide by the CLSA and the FLSA may result in penalties and may result in civil money penalties, injunctions and depending upon the gravity of the violations, criminal penalties as well.
This information is general in nature and should not be construed for tax or legal advice.