According to a field assistance bulletin issued by the federal Department of Labor (DOL), child labor laws that restrict working hours for 14- and 15-year-olds during the school year still apply even if schools are physically closed due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), for any day or week in which the school requires remote or distance learning. Federal regulations for nonagricultural employment limit 14- and 15-year olds to working only a certain number of hours depending on whether school is “in session.” In general, during a week when school is in session, they can work in nonagricultural employment only outside of school hours, for no more than 3 hours on any school day, 8 hours on any non-school day, and no more than 18 total hours in a week (when school isn’t in session, those limits loosen to 8 hours in any day and 40 total hours in a week). There are similar regulations for minors who work in agriculture.
Some public school districts are implementing mandatory summer sessions to make up for lost learning opportunities during the regular school year. The DOL’s field assistance bulletin 2020-3 states that the normal school-year limitations on working hours still apply if the local public school district requires remote or distance learning (i.e., home learning), even during the summer. School is “in session” in that school district during any week that students are required to participate in distance learning.
Tips: Many employers have 14- and 15-year olds perform basic tasks around the office for the summer without realizing that child labor laws may be implicated. Even when school isn’t in session, companies that employ minors must still adhere to strict working hours and conditions for those employees. Special safety rules also apply to minors. For example, 14- and 15-year olds cannot operate most power-driven machinery, so that means mowing the lawn at your facility is off limits if they’d be using a gas-powered or electric mower. Violating child labor laws can come with severe penalties. Read our Legal Guide, Child Labor Laws, and always consult your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney before you consider employing a minor, even if it’s for small jobs during the summer.