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Agricultural Workers, Child Labor, and the law

This article answers questions about standards for youth employment in agriculture. Specifically, it explains the minimum age requirements, and what "hazardous occupations" are. This article is adapted from content written by the United States Department of Labor.

To which agricultural workers does the FLSA apply?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) covers employees whose work involves production of agricultural goods which will leave the state and become a part of interstate commerce.

Read Fact Sheet #40: Youth Employment Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act for Agricultural Occupations at dol.gov.

What are the minimum age standards for agricultural employment?

  • Age 16 and older: may work in any farm job any time.
  • Age 14 and 15: may work outside school hours in jobs not declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.
  • Age 12 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.
  • Age 12 or under: may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs with parental consent (only on farms where no employees are subject to the FLSA minimum wage requirements).
  • Local youths 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 waivers from the Secretary of Labor.
  • Any age: may work at any time in any job on a farm owned or operated by their parents.

See Fact Sheet #40: Youth Employment Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act for Agricultural Occupations at dol.gov.

What are the hazardous occupations in agriculture?

Children under 16 may not work in occupations declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor, such as:

  • operating heavy equipment;
  • 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;
  • working with large, heavy timber;
  • working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet;
  • driving a bus, truck or automobile to transport passengers, or riding on a tractor as a passenger or helper.

The prohibition against working in hazardous occupations doesn't apply to children working on farms that their parents own or operate. (There are other exemptions too.)

For a complete list of hazardous agricultural jobs that young people cannot do, see Youth Employment Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act for Agricultural Occupations at dol.gov.