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Agricultural Workers, Youth Employment, and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Farm Worker Issues

This article provides general information about how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies to adults and youth working in agriculture.

Learn about the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), youth and adult agricultural workers, hazardous occupations, and the minimum wage.  

This article was adapted from material written by Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Department of Labor.   

Revised by on December 21, 2022.  

How does the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) apply to agricultural employment?

This fact sheet describes how the FLSA applies to agricultural employment. The FLSA is the federal law which sets minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping, and child labor standards. 

Agriculture includes farming in all its branches when performed by a farmer or on a farm.

Learn more about the FLSA and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act on the Department of Labor (DOL) website.

Are all agricultural workers covered by the FLSA?

Almost all agricultural workers are covered by the FLSA. There are some employees, however, who are exempt from the minimum wage provisions, the overtime pay provisions, or both. 

What are the minimum age standards for agricultural employment?

The following are age restrictions for youth working in agriculture: 

  • Ages 16 and above may work in any farm job at any time. 

  • Ages 14 and 15 may work outside school hours in jobs not declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. 

  • Ages12 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. 

  • Ages under 12 years of age may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs with parental consent, but only on farms where none of the employees are subject to the FLSA minimum wage requirements. 

  • Local youths aged 10 and 11 may hand harvest short-season crops outside school hours for no more than 8 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. 

To learn more, read Fact Sheet #40: Youth Employment Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act for Agricultural Occupations and Child Labor Requirements in Agricultural Occupations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on the DOL website.

What are the hazardous occupations in agriculture?

Minors under 16 may not work in the following occupations declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor

  • Operating a tractor of over 20 PTO horsepower, or connecting or disconnecting an implement or any of its parts to or from such a tractor

  • Operating or working with a corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, mobile pea viner, feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor, unloading mechanism of a nongravity-type self-unloading wagon or trailer, power posthole digger, power post driver, or nonwalking-type rotary tiller

  • Operating or working with a trencher or earthmoving equipment, fork lift, potato combine; or power-driven circular, band, or chain saw

  • Working in a yard, pen, or stall occupied by a bull, boar, or stud horse maintained for breeding purposes; a sow with suckling pigs; or a cow with a newborn calf (with umbilical cord present)

  • Felling, buckling, skidding, loading, or unloading timber with a butt diameter or more than 6 inches

  • Working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet

  • Driving a bus, truck, or automobile to transport passengers

  • Riding on a tractor as a passenger or helper

  • Working inside a fruit, forage, or grain storage designed to retain an oxygen-deficient or toxic atmosphere; an upright silo within two weeks after silage has been added or when a top unloading device is in operating position; a manure pit; or a horizontal silo while operating a tractor for packing purposes

  • Handling or applying toxic agricultural chemical identified by the words "danger," "poison," "warning,” or a skull and crossbones on the label

  • Handling or using explosives 

  • Transporting, transferring, or applying anhydrous ammonia

These hazardous occupation restrictions do not apply to youths employed on farms owned or operated by their parents.

Further exemptions include: 

  • 14- and 15-year-old student learners enrolled in vocational agricultural programs are may take part in certain hazardous occupations when certain requirements are met.

  • Minors aged 14 and 15 with certificates from a 4-H or vocational agriculture training program may work outside school hours on certain equipment for which they have been trained. 

Who enforces the federal youth employment laws, and what are the penalties for violations?

The Wage and Hour Division enforces the youth employment provisions of the FLSA. As the Secretary of Labor's representatives, they have the authority to conduct investigations and gather data on wages, hours, and other employment conditions or practices in order to assess compliance with all the provisions of the FLSA. 

An employer that violates the youth employment provisions may be subject to civil money penalties (CMPs). The amount of the CMP depends upon the application of statutory and regulatory factors to the specific circumstances of the case. 

For current maximum CMP amounts, visit 

The FLSA prohibits the shipment in interstate commerce of goods that were produced in violation of the Act's minimum wage, overtime, or youth employment provisions. The FLSA authorizes the Department of Labor (DOL) to seek a court order stopping the movement of such “hot goods.” The FLSA also authorizes the DOL to obtain court orders against violators of the youth employment provisions to make them comply with the law. Further violations could result in sanctions against such persons for contempt of court. Willful youth employment violators may face criminal prosecution and be fined up to $10,000. Under current law, a second conviction may result in imprisonment. 

What are the minimum wage and overtime exemptions?

Agricultural employees are exempt from the overtime pay provisions. They do not have to be paid time and one half their regular rates of pay for hours worked in excess of forty per week. 

An agricultural employer who did not have more than 500 "man days" of agricultural labor in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year is exempt from the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions of the FLSA for the current calendar year. A "man day" is defined as any day during which an employee does agricultural work for at least one hour. 

The following are also exempt from the Act's minimum wage and overtime requirements: 

  • Agricultural employees who are immediate family members of their employer 

  • Those principally engaged on the range in the production of livestock 

  • Local hand harvest laborers who commute daily from their permanent residence, are paid on a piece-rate basis in traditionally piece-rated occupations, and were engaged in agriculture less than thirteen weeks during the preceding calendar year 

  • Non-local minors, 16 years of age or under, who are hand harvesters, paid on a piece-rate basis in traditionally piece-rated occupations, employed on the same farm as their parent, and paid the same piece rate as those over 16

What are the minimum wage requirements?

Although not entitled to overtime pay under the FLSA, agricultural employees are entitled to the federal minimum wage unless exempt.  

Texas adopts the federal minimum wage rate. Effective July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. 

There are numerous restrictions on the employing minors under 16 years of age, particularly in occupations the Secretary of Labor has labeled hazardous. Violations can result in substantial civil fines. The FLSA also requires employers to keep specific records. 

Employers may pay a youth minimum wage of $4.25 an hour to employees who are under 20 years of age during the first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment. The law restricts employers from displacing any employee in order to hire someone at the youth minimum wage. 

For additional information, visit the Wage and Hour Division website. You can also call its toll-free information and helpline, at (866) 487-9243. 

Do Texas child labor laws apply to youth working in agriculture?

Texas Child Labor Law does not apply to a child who is employed in agriculture during a period when the child is not legally required to be attending school.

Employment in agriculture means engaged in crop or livestock production. It includes: 

  • Cultivating and tilling the soil 

  • Producing, cultivating, growing, and harvesting an agricultural or horticultural commodity 

  • Dairying 

  • Raising or selling livestock, bees, fur-bearing animals, or poultry

Learn more on the Texas Child Labor Law page on the Texas Workforce Commission website

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