Source: Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR, Tuscarawas County
Young people may be approaching you in the next few weeks looking for a summer job on your farm. Will you hire someone on the spot? Do you have work available for a minor to perform? Can a minor perform the same tasks as an adult? What do state and federal child labor laws say about youth employed in agriculture?
Determine Your Needs
- What jobs do you have available?
- Are there livestock tasks that need performed?
- What cropping tasks need completed?
- For how many hours do you need an employee?
- Are there special requirements you must be aware of when employing minors?
Tasks Defined as Hazardous
It’s not surprising that there are certain tasks in agriculture that have been identified as “hazardous” by the federal government. Ohio has adopted the same list. What’s included on this list?
- 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, grain combine, hay mower, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, mobile pea viner, feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, auger conveyer, unloading mechanism of a non-gravity type self-unloading wagon or trailer, power post hole digger, power post driver, or non-walking 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, stall, or pen 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 of greater than six inches;
- 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;
- 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 chemicals identified by the words “danger,” “poison,” or “warning” or a skull and crossbones on the label;
- Handling or transporting explosives;
- Transporting, transferring, or applying anhydrous ammonia
The prohibition of employment in hazardous occupations does not apply to youths employed on farms owned or operated by their parents. In addition, there are some exemptions from this prohibition:
- 14 & 15 year old students enrolled in vocational agriculture programs are exempt from certain hazardous occupations when certain requirements are met; and
- Minors aged 14 & 15 who hold certificates of completion of training under a 4-H or vocational agriculture training program may work outside school hours on certain equipment for which they have been trained
Minimum Age Standards for Agricultural Employment
- Youths ages 16 & above may work in any farm job at any time
- Youths age 14 & 15 may work outside school hours in jobs NOT declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor, unless the minor holds a 4-H or vocational agriculture tractor operation or machinery operation certificate. The certificate must be kept on file by the employer.
- Youths 12 & 13 years of age may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs on farms that also employ their parent(s) or with written parental consent
- Youth 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 minimum wage requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- Youths 10 &11 years old may hand harvest short-season crops outside school hours for no more than eight weeks between June 1 & 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
Who Enforces the Laws and What are the Penalties?
Investigators of the Wage and Hour Division enforce youth employment provisions of the FLSA. They have full authority to conduct investigations, gather date, and assess compliance with the laws.
An employer that violates the youth employment provisions may be subject to civil money penalties (CMPs). The amount of the CMP assessment depends upon the application of statutory and regulatory factors to the specific circumstances of the case.
Generally speaking, child labor CMP assessments will be higher if the violation contributed to the injury or death of the youth involved. The severity of any such injury will be taken into account in determining the amount of a CMP. A CMP assessment may be decreased based on the size of the farm business. Also, CMP assessments will reflect the gravity of the violation and may be doubled if the violation is determined to be willful or repeated.
A CMP assessment for a violation that causes death or serious injury of a minor is subject to a higher statutory cap. An injury qualifies as a “serious injury” for this purpose if it involves permanent or substantial harm. Both the significance of the injury and duration of recovery are relevant in determining whether an injury is serious. If more than one violation caused a single death or serious injury, more than one CMP may be assessed. Finally, CMP assessments based on the death or serious injury of a minor may be doubled to a higher statutory cap if the violation is determined to be willful or repeated.
How to Comply with the Law
To be certain you are in compliance with the laws regulating the employment of minors in agriculture, take a few precautions to protect everyone involved.
- Verify the child’s age and keep records
- Review and understand the list of agricultural work considered hazardous
- Remember that only your children and grandchildren are exempt from hazardous jobs
- Instruct minor employees about the jobs they may not perform
- Review safety procedures with employees
- For 14 and 15 year olds who have completed a 4-H or vocational agriculture tractor or machinery operation course, retain a copy of the certificate.
A job on a farm is a great opportunity for young people to learn about agriculture. It’s also a good way for them to earn money toward a vehicle or furthering their education. View your farm operation as a way to provide opportunities for young people, but make certain you understand and follow the law.
U.S. Department of Labor, Wage & Hour Division, http://www.wagehour.dol.gov
Peggy Hall and Catharine Daniels, Ohio Agricultural Law Blog, June 10, 2013, https://ohioaglaw.wordpress.com/tag/employing-minors-on-farms/