State vs. Federal Child Labor Laws: Which Apply?

There are child labor laws, both state and federal, that regulate the hours of work, types of jobs, and working conditions of children and adolescents.

Every state has a child labor law, usually enforced by a state labor department.  These laws vary in the level of protection afforded young workers for both agriculture and nonagricultural employment.  In other words, there exists differences in the level of protection and the requirements of child labor laws from state to state.

Additionally, within any state law, there may be some provisions that are more or less restrictive than provisions of the federal child labor law.

Which law applies:

  • Be aware that there is often extensive overlap in coverage with the state and federal child labor laws.  Employers in a state are required to follow the state child labor laws.  Many businesses (not all) are required to follow the federal child labor law as well.
  • If both the state and federal child labor law applies to the same employment situation, the more stringent standard of the two must be obeyed.
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