Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jennifer Berrier recently reminded Pennsylvania employers of their responsibilities under the commonwealth’s Child Labor Act enforced by L&I to protect child workers from exploitation and dangerous working conditions.
Berrier also urged members of the public to report suspected child labor violations to the department’s Bureau of Labor Law Compliance (BLLC) for investigation.
“The protections of child labor laws in this country are just as relevant today as they were in 1938 when the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) first prohibited the employment of children in dangerous occupations,” Berrier said. “Labor market dynamics change over time, but the fundamental responsibility of employers to follow the law and protect workers under age 18 will not. L&I will continue to support employers who offer teenagers 14 and older the opportunity to gain valuable job skills and earn a paycheck. However, we will continue to hold accountable employers who exploit the vulnerability of young workers in violation of the law and common sense.”
Pennsylvania’s Child Labor Act protects the health, safety, and welfare of minors employed in the commonwealth by limiting employment in certain establishments, restricting the hours of work, regulating work conditions, and requiring work permits for children hired to fill a position. The BLLC investigates possible violations of the Child Labor Act and accepts complaints from the general public.
Violations of the Child Labor Act may be punishable by either administrative or criminal penalties. Criminal penalties could include fines of up to $500 for first violations and up to $1,500 per violation and up to 10 days of prison for subsequent violations. Administrative penalties may include fines of up to $5,000 per violation and corrective action orders to violating parties.
Since 2015, the BLLC has collected more than $3.7 million in fines from nearly 400 entities in violation of the Act. So far, in 2022, the BLLC has collected $130,000 from 58 entities in violation of the Act. L&I is reminding Pennsylvania employers of the following prohibited occupations and limitations under the Child Labor Act.
- Legal age to obtain employment: Individuals under age 14 may not be employed in any occupation. Exceptions include work on a family farm or in domestic service, such as babysitting, yard work or household chores in a private home. Other exceptions are made for caddies, newspaper carriers and – with special permits – juvenile entertainment performers. All minors under 16 must have a written statement by the minor’s parent or guardian acknowledging the duties and hours of employment and granting permission to work. Minors are also required to obtain a work permit from their school district’s issuing officer.
- Prohibited occupations for all minors: Minors of all ages are prohibited from obtaining employment in an establishment designated as hazardous – a provision under FLSA and the regulations under that Act. Occupations deemed as hazardous or ones that require the use of dangerous equipment, weapons, or devices, include the following: Crane operation; Electrical work; Excavation; Roofing; Woodworking; Wrecking and demolition.
- Legal age to be in the presence of or serve alcoholic beverages: With limited and specific exceptions, minors under age 16 may not be employed in establishments where alcoholic beverages are produced, sold or dispensed. Minors who are 16 or 17 may be employed in a hotel, club, or restaurant where alcoholic beverages are served but cannot handle or serve alcoholic beverages. An individual must be at least 18 to serve alcoholic beverages in Pennsylvania businesses.
- Time and wage protections: With one exception for newspaper delivery work, all minors are limited to working no more than 10 hours in a single day during school vacations, no more than eight hours per day during school term and no more than six consecutive days in a week. In addition, all minors must be allowed a 30-minute meal period on or before five consecutive hours of work. There are more restrictive hour limitations for minors who are 14 or 15. Minors involved in performance also have different hours they are permitted to work. Minors who are full- or part-time workers must be paid at least minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour in Pennsylvania.
- Child Labor Act exceptions for parent/guardian employers: While the FLSA allows certain minors under age 16 to work for a business solely operated by a parent or guardian without time limitations, Pennsylvania law does not contain similar allowances. Regardless of the relationship of the minor employee to the owner, the Act and its restrictions still apply.
- Requirement for school working papers: All minors who are employed need to obtain working papers from their school district prior to employment commencing, and employers need to ensure they notify a school district of employment after hiring a minor. This includes minors who attend cyber school or are home schooled.
Workers who are 18 years and older are not subject to child labor laws. Where FLSA and the Child Labor Act overlap, the law that provides more protection to the young worker applies.
More information is available by calling the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance toll-free at 800-932-0665, or by visiting the bureau’s website, dli.pa.gov.