[Except] The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 prohibits the employment of “oppressive child labor” in the United States, which the act defines—with some exceptions—as the employment of youth under the age of 16 in any occupation or the employment of youth under 18 years old in hazardous occupations. The act includes several exemptions, however, that create a complex set of thresholds that depend on the child’s age, local school hours, the nature of the work (e.g., occupation, industry, and work environment), parental involvement in the child’s employment, and other factors. Notably, exemptions to the act’s child labor provisions create separate rules governing children’s employment in agriculture and in non-agricultural work.
This report describes the FLSA child labor provisions, accompanying DOL regulations, and their administration. Taken together, these constitute what is commonly known as “federal child labor law.” In addition, all states have child labor laws, compulsory schooling requirements, and other laws that govern children’s employment and activities. No state law may weaken the worker protections provided by the FLSA. However, state laws that impose greater worker protections will supersede those provided by the FLSA. Such state protections are not discussed in this report.