Child Labor Laws and Farm Workers

The growth of farm wineries, farm distilleries and farm breweries brings new entrepreneurs to the world of farming. Corporate executives are leaving the board room for a better quality of life. With no experience in farming and the applicable regulations, this can be unfamiliar territory for startups.

The child labor laws for farm workers aren’t too complicated.  Surprisingly, these laws do not restrict the limit on the number of hours per day or per week worked by these teenagers.  Let’s review the basics:

  • Youth under 13 can be employed with written parental permission.
  • Teenagers under 16 can be employed so long as working hours follow the local public school calendar.   They can’t work during school hours.  For example, if the local school day ends at 3:00 PM that is the earliest time a shift can begin.
  • Youth under 16 can’t perform hazardous tasks (typical examples include machines such as 20+HP tractors, fork lifts, grain combines, corn and cotton picker, auger conveyors, chainsaws, logging equipment, toxic chemicals, and blasting agents).

The rules are fairly simple to follow but you must be diligent in following them and keeping records to prove you are in compliance.  The penalties for violating child labor laws are stiff: up to $11,000 per child worker.   And these penalties are just the beginning.  You can also be liable for non-child labor law penalties such as violation of safety codes, OSHA, minimum wage and other applicable labor regulations.

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