Workers Under 18

The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the federal child labor laws. Generally speaking, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the minimum age for employment (14 years for non-agricultural jobs), restricts the hours youth under the age of 16 may work, and prohibits youth under the age of 18 from being employed in hazardous occupations. In addition, the FLSA establishes subminimum wage standards for certain employees who are less than 20 years of age, full-time students, student learners, apprentices, and workers with disabilities. Employers generally must have authorization from WHD in order to pay subminimum wage rates.

The FLSA's child labor provisions are designed to protect the educational opportunities of youth and prohibit their employment in jobs that are detrimental to their health and safety. The Department's YouthRules! initiative helps promote positive and safe work experiences for young workers.

All states also have standards concerning youth employment. When federal and state standards are different, the rules that provide the most protection to young workers will apply.

Note that federal employment laws on safety and health, discrimination, benefits, etc. apply to youth, as well as to older workers.