Child labor laws under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act were enacted to protect the educational opportunities of minors and to prohibit their employment in jobs characterized by conditions that may be detrimental to their health or well-being. The specific provisions under the act mainly specify what type of work minors can engage in, when they can do it, and how old they have to be to do it. Generally, no one under the age of 14 is permitted to work. Fourteen and 15-year-olds who choose to work may only be employed outside of school hours for a maximum of 3 hours per day and 18 hours per week when school is in session. This age group is also prohibited from working before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m., except during summers when they may work until 9 p.m. Sixteen and 17-year olds may be employed for unlimited hours. All children under the age 18 are banned from working hazardous jobs that require the operation of dangerous or heavy machinery. When employing minors, companies must pay minors the same minimum wage and overtime that's paid to other employees. Keep in mind that many states have different minimum ages for employment, different hours of work restrictions, and additional occupations identified as hazardous. When state and federal laws differ, the law giving the greatest amount of protection to the minor applies. The consequences of violating child labor laws are harsh. Companies found to be in violation of these laws could be subject to a federal civil penalty of up to $10,000 (ten thousand dollars) for each minor worker improperly employed. Failure to preserve the appropriate records concerning proof of each minor employee's age can also result in a substantial fine.
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