12 Years & Under Labor Laws in a Family Business (2023)

The provisions related to child labor, working hours, minimum wage, and overtime pay are all contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. This act is enforced by the U.S Department of Labor, Wage, and Hour Division, which takes issues pertaining to child labor very seriously, because violations of such laws lead to the deterioration of the health and well-being of children while also impeding their access to education. There are three categories of regulations concerning workers under the age of 18: children under 14 years old; children between 14 years old and 15 years old; and the rest, which are considered youth ages.

The Issue of Child Labor

Both state and federal laws are dedicated to the protection of the well-being of children, and they seek to ensure that children are not held back from their right to education, because of obligations related to work. Employers are prohibited by state labor departments – as well as by the U.S. Department of Labor – from making children of certain ages work in hazardous occupations for long hours. There are exceptions, of course, and many of those exceptions are in connection with duties related to agricultural work and family businesses.

Which Hours Are Children Allowed to Work?

12-year-old children are allowed to work for their parents on the condition that their parents are the sole owners of the business they are working for. They can work at any time of day and for any number of hours, according to federal family business child labor laws. There may, however, be restrictions at the state level. Some state laws do not allow parents to make their 12 year olds work during certain hours when they are meant to be in school, as stipulated by school attendance laws.

When there is conflict between federal and state laws concerning child labor, the parents are required to comply with the higher standard. In Alabama, all children under the age of 16 are restricted to eight hours of work a day, 40 hours of work a week, and six days a week. The state of Idaho, on the other hand, has laxer laws that allow children under the age of 16 to work nine hours a day and 54 hours a week. The children, however, are not allowed to work between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Which Jobs Are Prohibited for Children?

Twelve-year-old children are allowed to work in a business that's owned and operated by their families, provided the jobs for 12 year olds do not involve hazardous or dangerous occupations. An example of an occupation considered hazardous is any job that involves the use of machines to process meat and package it, roofing jobs, window washing jobs, jobs that require workers to work on a scaffold, jobs that involve operating motor vehicles or wrecking them, and manufacturing jobs.

Jobs Related to Agriculture

Children who are age 12 years or younger are allowed to work on a farm, as long as that farm is exempt from the minimum wage rules in the Fair Labor Standards Act and that the parents have given the children permission to work on the farm or that their parents own the farm.

Farms that require fewer than 500 working hours and are not required to pay minimum wage nor required to compensate workers for overtime work are considered exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage rules. Children are allowed to work on these farms only when they are not meant to be in school or when school is not in session, which is stipulated by the specific state’s laws. For an agricultural business owned and operated by the family, the children of that family are not bound by any federal rules, as far as work hours are concerned. They may, however, be bound by state laws, which may be stricter, in some instances.

What About Non Family-Owned Businesses?

Twelve year olds are also allowed to work in occupations for businesses that are owned by people other than their families. In such instances, they are bound by federal laws, as well as by state laws concerning work hours – particularly those laws connected to compulsory school attendance.

For example, 12 year olds are allowed to babysit children. However, they are not allowed to do it as part of a babysitting company or service. They should do it on a casual basis. 12 year olds are also allowed to work as singers, dancers, and actors in theater, film, and television productions.

What About Children of Other Ages?

Here, many of the same rules that apply for children under 14 years of age still apply. If the business isn’t owned and operated by the family, then children between the ages of 14 and 15 years old are not allowed to work too many hours and also are not allowed to work in hazardous or dangerous occupations. There aren’t any restrictions under federal law that pertain to work hours for a child employed by parents who is 16 years or older. There may, however, be restrictions imposed by state laws, as to the maximum number of hours that children from the age of 14 and older can work in a day and in a week, as well as how many days a week they can work.

The Work Hours

Family businesses aren’t restricted by federal law as to the number of hours the children of the owners are allowed to work. However, that doesn’t mean that a child can spend an entire day working at the family business in lieu of school. There are always state laws relating to compulsory school attendance that parents must comply with.

If the business owner requires that his child work during school hours, that business owner can be held liable for denying his child the opportunity to access formal education; ensuring that children are able to attend school and not be forced into working in lieu of attending school is exactly what these provisions exist to prevent. For example, in the state of Mississippi, parents who violate compulsory school attendance laws could be charged with neglecting their child and contributing to their delinquency.

Hazardous or Dangerous Occupations

Even though family-owned businesses aren’t restricted by federal law in terms of the the number of hours and the times of day that children can work, they are not allowed to expose their children to hazardous or dangerous occupations. Here, some of the same rules apply for 12 year olds, such as work that requires the use of a scaffold or ladder; mining, manufacturing, and metal fabrication. Whether the business is family owned or not, the minimum age for employing someone in a hazardous occupation is set at 18 years old, at which point the individual is considered an adult.

The Prevalence of State Laws

Many state laws are similar to federal provisions for child labor. If there is a difference between the two – then the employer, who is usually the parent – is required to comply with the law that employs a higher standard. In Texas, for example, state laws are quite similar to federal laws.

On the other hand, in Missouri, family businesses do not have to comply with state labor laws, under the condition that the parent or guardian has direct control over the child employee. In such a state, a parent who asks his child to open the family store and run it all day might actually be in violation of state labor laws, while being compliant with federal law.

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