US Department of Labor reminds Southwest employers about child labor laws, responsibilities when employing minors
DALLAS – As minor-aged workers seek to make extra cash by working more hours during spring recess, their employers should take the opportunity to review federal child labor laws to avoid violations and costly penalties.
While classes are not in session, 14- and 15-year-old workers cannot work more than 8 hours per day or exceed 40 hours per workweek. In addition, employers must not allow these workers to work before 7 a.m. or past 7 p.m. Whether school is in session or not, workers under the age of 18 are banned from occupations considered hazardous by the U.S. Department of Labor.
In fiscal year 2021, the department’s Wage and Hour Division conducted 117 child labor investigations in its Southwest Region and found 382 minors employed in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Investigators found violations of federal hazardous occupation orders in more than 20 percent of cases and assessed nearly $300,000 in penalties.
In FY21, violations put minor-aged workers at risk in various ways, including:
- Salt Lake City: After a minor received third-degree burns on the neck, arms and chest in January 2021, their employer was found to have allowed minor-aged workers to operate a deep fryer, commercial dough mixer, tortilla maker and microwave oven – all hazardous or prohibited occupations. The restaurant also allowed two 15-year-olds to work past 7 p.m., more than 3 hours on a school day, and more than 18 hours in a school week. The division assessed $24,568 in penalties.
- Edmond, Oklahoma: While performing demolition work, a minor in a hazardous occupation, suffered injury in October 2021. Investigators determined the employer allowed four minors to operate a circular saw, jack hammer and reciprocating saw, and others to drive box and pick-up trucks – all hazardous occupations. The division assessed $22,000 in penalties.
- Albuquerque, New Mexico: A restaurant permitted six employees under the age of 16 to work more hours than the law allows, more than 3 hours per day on school days and often beyond 9 p.m. The division assessed $4,146 in penalties.
- Dallas: A restaurant employed a 13-year-old worker a federal child labor violation. The employer also employed a15-year-old in violation of hours standards. Additionally, the employer failed to keep birthdates for minor-aged employees, as the law requires. The division assessed $2,525 in civil money penalties.
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana: An employer allowed a 15-year-old to operate a deep fat fryer, and the division assessed $766 in penalties for the prohibited occupation violation.
“Jobs allow young workers to learn valuable skills – tangible and intangible – and gain real-world experience that is sure to serve them in the future. Employers must follow laws intended to prevent employment from interfering with the education of minor-aged workers and putting them at risk of injury,” said Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Betty Campbell in Dallas. “We encourage all employers to review federal child labor laws, use the tools the U.S. Department of Labor offers and contact us for more information.”