Summer is upon us, which means schools are out and kids of various ages will be looking for summer jobs. As always, the agriculture industry will continue to offer many opportunities for summer employment for teenagers. However, the laws and regulations for youth employment in agriculture differ from nonfarm jobs, so be sure to understand and follow the rules.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), as amended, is the governing document when it comes to agriculture jobs. The FLSA covers employees whose work involves the production of agricultural goods that leave the state directly or indirectly and become part of interstate commerce.
The minimum age standards for agricultural employment set by the FLSA* are as follows:
- Youths age 16 and above may work in any farm job at any time.
- Youths ages 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in jobs not declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.
- Youths ages 12 and 13 may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs on farms that also employ their parent(s) or with written parental consent.
- Youths under age 12 may work outside of school hours in a non-hazardous job with parental consent, but only on farms where none of the employees are subject to the minimum wage requirements of the FLSA.
- Youths ages 10 and 11 may hand-harvest short-season crops outside school hours for no more than eight weeks between June 1 and October 15, if their employers have obtained special waivers from the Secretary of Labor.
- Youths of any age may work at any time in any job on a farm owned or operated by their parents.
Be aware that many states have their own laws for youth employment in agriculture. When both state and federal youth employment laws apply, the law setting the most stringent standard must be observed. Michigan generally follows the federal laws except for operations involving detasseling, roguing, hoeing or similar work in the production of seed.* For those types of operations, students must be age 16 or older to work during school hours or age 13 or older during non-school hours. These students are also subject to maximum daily and weekly hour limitations.
To help make sure you are in compliance with these laws and regulations, follow these best practices:
- Properly verify all minor workers’ ages and keep good records.
- Review and understand what is considered hazardous work for agriculture employees.
- Make sure all of your minor employees are clear on what jobs they may and may not do.
- Regularly review safety procedures with all of your employees.
- Keep copies close at hand of any certifications that 14- and 15-year olds may have completed for machinery operation courses offered through vocational schools or 4-H.
An employer who violates the youth employment provisions may be subject to civil penalties, based on the specific circumstances of each case. These laws are enforced by investigators of the Wage and Hour Division of the Secretary of Labor. These investigators have the authority to conduct investigations and gather data on wages, hours, and other employment conditions or practices to assess compliance with all the provisions of the FLSA.*
Additional information can be obtained from the Wage and Hour Division’s website at http://www.wagehour.dol.gov or by calling the toll-free information helpline at 1-866-487-9243.
*Source: U.S. Department of Labor website, Child Labor Bulletin No. 102. Other portions of this article were also excerpted from the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.