In the United States, young workers are regularly employed in grocery stores, in restaurants, as lifeguards, or in amusement parks. They are also employed in less visible occupations, like in farms, in the wood processing industry, roofing, and sometimes even driving automobiles and trucks, among other jobs. However, child labor is highly regulated. Subject to some exceptions, federal and state child labor laws prevent employers from hiring youth to perform certain jobs, during specific periods of time, and over a designated length of time, to prevent work from interfering with the child’s health, safety, and education.
Laws Regulating Child Labor
At a federal level, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) fixes the minimum age for work during school hours, performing certain jobs after school, and places restraints on work considered hazardous. Florida’s Child Labor Law also restricts the employment of minors, sometimes more than federal law. Once a worker reaches the age of 18, child labor laws do not restrict their employment.
Under the FLSA, subject to some exceptions, children under 14 may not be employed, children between the ages of 14 and 16 may be employed in certain occupations for a limited number of hours, and children between 16 and 18 can be employed for unlimited hours in occupations considered non-hazardous. Florida law restricts child labor for minors 14 to 17 years of age and prohibits employment of children under 14, with some limited exceptions.
Minors under 16
Both the FLSA and Florida law restrict when and how many hours minors under 16 years old may work. For example, when they have school the following day, minors under 16 may not work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. (except from summer break, June 1 through Labor Day, when the evening limit is extended to 9 p.m.) They cannot be employed for more than 18 hours per week when school is in session. In addition, their work is limited to three hours or less on any school day (unless there is no school the next day, or they are participating on a career education program.)
During a time when school does not meet (such as holidays and summer break), minors under 16 may not be employed for more than eight hours per day. In addition, they may not work for more than 40 hours per week.
Minors 16 and 17
The FLSA does not limit the hours worked for minors who are at least 16 years old. However, Florida law provides restrictions. For example, when school is scheduled on the next day, minors 16 and 17 years of age may not work before 6:30 a.m. or after 11:00 p.m., or for more than eight hours per day. They may not be employed to work more than 30 hours per week when school is in session. In addition, they may not work during school hours (on any school day), except when they participate in a career education program. There is no hour limitation when school is out of session, such as summer, spring break, or winter break.
Florida law requires that workers under 18 receive an uninterrupted rest break of 30 minutes for every four hours of allowed work.
Restrictions by Type of Occupation
Florida follows the FLSA regarding its 17 Hazardous Occupations (HOs), and it has identified additional restrictions limiting employment of minors less than 18 years old in performing identified hazardous work. For example, minors are generally not allowed to operate motor vehicles, perform logging or sawmilling, work in construction, or operate power-driven meat processing machines (including cleaning them), among other occupations considered hazardous. Children 14 and 15 may be employed in food preparation, but they may not do baking and are limited in the cooking activities they may perform.
In addition to FLSA restrictions, Florida law does not allow the employment of workers under 18 in firefighting, working with electrical apparatus or wiring, working with some compressed gases, and operating forklifts or earthmoving equipment, among other restrictions. Florida law restricts the employment of children 14 and 15 beyond FLSA regulations. For example, they may not handle certain dangerous animals, conduct door-to-door sales of products, or be employed to spray paint.
Consecutive Days Limitation
Under Florida law, children under 18 may not be employed to work for more than six consecutive days in a week.
Subject to hazardous occupation restrictions, children are allowed to be employed by their parents, deliver newspapers, and work as child actors. In addition, under the FLSA, children are allowed to work an unlimited number of hours on a farm. They are allowed to work during school hours, if a parent or guardian works that same farm. Florida law requires that the employment of minors participating in farm work (not on their parents’ or guardian’s farm) must comply with the same restrictions applicable to non-farm work.
The Florida limitation on hours of work for minors do not apply to the following:
- Minors 16 and 17 years of age who have graduated from high school or received a high school equivalency diploma;
- Minors who are within the compulsory school attendance age (i.e., those below 16 years of age) who hold a valid certificate of exemption issued by the school superintendent;
- Minors enrolled in a public school who qualify on a hardship basis, such as economic necessity or family emergency; or
- Children in domestic service in private homes (e.g., babysitters), children employed by their parents, or pages in the Florida Legislature.
Notice and Recordkeeping Requirements
In addition to maintaining Child Labor Law posters conspicuously posted in the workplace, the FLSA requires employers to maintain records of every child employed, including proof of the child’s age.
Young workers may be exempted from the minimum wage requirements under certain conditions. For example, as of this writing, new employees under 20 years old can be paid a “training wage” of $4.25 for the first 90 days of employment, and high school or college students enrolled in school full time can be paid 85% of the Florida minimum wage ($6.84 per hour) for up to 20 hours of part-time work for certain employers.
The Florida Child Labor Law imposes civil fines of up to $2,500 per violation. Violations may extend to criminal penalties amounting to a second-degree misdemeanor. Under the FLSA, violators may be fined up to $11,000 per minor/per violation. In addition, if a minor employed in violation of any provision of the Florida law is injured at work, his or her employer may be liable to pay double the compensation due under the Florida Workers’ Compensation law. 
Due to the restrictions imposed on the employment of minors at federal and state levels, and the penalties that may result from any violations, it is important for an employer to be thoroughly familiar with child labor laws regulations. Securing the advice of counsel is key to prevent offenses, ensure compliance, and properly defend any claims. Parents or guardians of young workers who think their rights under the law have been infringed will benefit from consulting with an attorney to determine their best course of action.
Whether you are an employer, employee, or independent contractor, the Orlando employment law attorneys of Burruezo & Burruezo can assist you in assessing child labor compliance matter or claim situation and offer competent legal representation, if necessary. Click here to contact an attorney now.
 Students can be sponsored by State representatives to go to the Florida Capitol and work one week during the 60-day Regular Session as Pages (ages 12-14) and Messengers (ages 15-18). The children get to assist the representatives and observe how government works.
 See Minimum Wage blog for more information.
 See Worker’s Compensation for general information on the subject. See also Wage and Hour Claims for information about claims and penalties.