Updated 04/14/2009



Child labor laws exist to protect our youth in the workplace. They also ensure our youth have the opportunity to complete a quality education and become productive members of our society. These laws strive to protect our youth while still supporting their workplace experiences. They also assist employers in reducing costs associated with workplace injuries, such as lost production time and workers' compensation insurance premiums.

Research proves abuse of hour limitations and working youth in hazardous or prohibited areas leads to serious consequences. The most obvious is workplace injuries and fatalities to our youth. Consequences of these injuries or fatalities are obvious - possible loss of limbs, or lives, or at best, loss of work time and production.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has ongoing research on the safety of youth in the workplaces. NIOSH also has numerous free publications available to the public.

Other consequences are interrupted or incomplete educations. Many educators are constantly concerned about students falling asleep in classrooms due to late hours working the night before. Increases in drug and alcohol abuse, gang and violent behavior have also been shown to correlate with abuse of child labor laws.

Child labor laws typically regulate what hours youth in certain age levels may work. These laws also provide maximum lengths of time that youth may work on a daily or weekly basis. Most requirements distinguish between the time periods when youth are in school compared to summer vacation periods. Times when youth may or may not work, such as the earliest starting time or the latest ending time of the day, is also regulated.

Hazardous work is specifically prohibited. Areas such as construction, mining, use of power operated machinery, and other hazardous occupations or use of certain equipment are dangerous for youth covered under child labor laws. The limitations placed on young workers recognize that their emotional and physiological development of these young people are not complete, requiring special protection in the workplace. Child labor laws provide protection, but still allow employers to employ youth to meet their production needs. This assists youth in developing work skills, discipline and self-esteem and their own career goals. For further information on keeping youth safe in the workplace, see the National Research Council's "Protecting Youth At Work" Report

Most state's child labor laws differ from the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division's child labor law. Check with your individual state, and the federal law, to be sure you have the correct information. Congress has recently changed provisions on 16 and 17 year olds driving for work. Please check this site for further information.

Many state agencies offer assistance with education and outreach activities. Contact your state labor standards agency if you'd like further information. See the state ILSA contact list above for immediate linkage to your state's home page.

Additional information can also be obtained from:

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Traveling Youth Crews

Many youth are exploited and abused through a practice known as Door to Door Sales, or Traveling Youth Crews. In these situations, employers work youth by having them sell candy, household goods, etc., either door to door or at locations such as shopping malls. These employers, in most cases, claim to be not for profit organizations. Yet they earn considerable amounts from the items youth are selling. Youth are encouraged to work in these areas with promises of prizes and trips. This does not include charitable, school or church organizations such as Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts.

There are many dangers for youth involved in these operations. Youth are worked beyond the allowed hours at night. They work in areas far from their own homes, sometimes across state lines. They are left on street corners if they have not met their sales quotas. Youth have been pulled inside peoples' homes against their wills. Twenty or thirty youth, both boys and girls, are piled together in motel rooms for overnight trips. Lack of supervision leaves these children vulnerable to any kind of night activity.

ILSA members caution the public to be aware of these kinds of activities. Even if you are in a church or school group, we advise you to follow these guidelines:

For children involved in any type of door to door sales, or youth peddling operations, the Interstate Labor Standards Association provides recommendations to ensure our children’s safety. Certain types of operations, such as Girl Scouts or school activities are legal, but guidelines should still be followed.

  1. Always check with your state Division of Labor Standards. See if the employer has permission to operate for state child labor contacts, check the state contact list on this website or the Interstate Labor Standards association website ( http://www.ilsa.net/ ).
  2. Always make sure parents or guardians have the employer’s name, address, phone number, schedule and place of work.
  3. Always ensure that children work with a buddy.
  4. Always have adult supervision in the immediate area.
  5. Never allow children to travel farther than 10 miles from home.
  6. Always have an emergency plan in place (what to do if the child dropped off on the street corner; is being taken across state lines; is asked to do something illegal, etc.)
  7. Children should be instructed to never enter anyone’s home.
  8. Check with the local policy or city/county clerk to see if the employer has a license or permit to operate.
  9. Be sure the children know their rights under the law.

If door-to-door sales or youth peddling is occurring in your neighborhood, please ask the child involved for the following information. Report it to your state officials immediately. Time factors are critical for us to help effectively.

  1. The employer’s and organization’s name.
  2. The item(s) they sell.
  3. Locations where the children are being picked up and dropped off. Are they staying overnight anywhere? If so, where?
  4. Places (addresses if possible), dates and times they are working.
  5. Names, ages and contact information of children working.
  6. How long and how late do they work?

Keep copies of any literature provided, including flyers used for recruitment (usually found around schools, telephone poles or grocery store bulletin boards).

We hope this provides some guidelines to assist the youth you know are working safely and legally. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your state's child labor contact listed on this website.

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The Prevailing Wage is a wage rate associated generally with wage levels paid to workers on public works construction. These wages are determined to most labor standard agencies in the states that have prevailing wage laws. There are currently 31 states that have such a law. These states are:

Alaska Nebraska
Arkansas Nevada
California New Jersey
Connecticut New Mexico
Delaware New York
Hawaii Ohio
Illinois Oregon
Indiana Pennsylvania
Kentucky Rhode Island
Maine Tennessee
Maryland Texas
Massachusetts Washington
Michigan West Virginia
Minnesota Wisconsin
Missouri Wyoming

These laws were originally created to better reflect wage levels paid within the states. Published wage rates within each state may be by county, assigned regions, or based on the U.S. Department of Labor's Davis Bacon wage rates. Davis Bacon is the overarching prevailing wage law for federally funded construction projects in the United States. This law covers all federally funded work, whether or not a state has a prevailing wage.

Rate determination processes for each state vary. It is important that workers, contractors and public bodies know the requirements for their laws. In many states, contractors are offered opportunities for input into the rate process. State prevailing wage laws require the contracting public bodies to provide this information to contractors bidding their projects. That way all contractors may compute their bids based on similar cost factors.

Enforcement systems vary from state to state. Workers are assured their wage rates are paid according to the wage determination established. This usually is calculated using a base wage rate adding fringe benefits such as health insurance and pension costs into this base rate. That total becomes the prevailing wage rate required to be paid for that project, county or region.

Refer back to the state ILSA contact list above for further information on your state's prevailing wage laws and procedures. All state labor standards agencies are more than happy to provide any kind of assistance with educational or training needs relevant to their laws.

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State labor laws often provide for the payment of wages earned as an employee. Minimum wage and overtime requirements may be covered by both the U.S. Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division and/or the provisions of the state's minimum wage laws. In addition, nonpayment of an agreed or promised wage rate is enforced by many states.

Promised supplemental benefits, such as vacation and sick pay, are covered by a state's specific requirements. Wage payment laws vary among states. It is necessary that you check with the state in which employment occurred to determine if they have jurisdictional responsibility.

Many states that have wage collection laws have signed agreements with other states to help collect those wages. That means if an employer moves across a state line, or is based in another state, a worker with a wage claim may have help from another state in collecting those wages. Check with your state to find out if they have a "reciprocal agreement" signed with other states.

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Some states regulate specific workplace requirements. Examples of these are when overtime must be paid and for how much, if paid or unpaid break and lunch periods must be provided, on what grounds an employer may terminate an employee, and what minimum wage must be paid to workers in that state. Each state varies greatly on what requirements exist. States also differ on what level of authority they have to enforce existing laws. Many laws not enforced by a state agency must be handled by private rights of action in an appropriate court of law. Check with your state for further information.

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Some states require certain types of employers or contractors to register with their state to do business. Most regulations exist to provide some assurance that the business is operating legitimately within that state.

Requirements vary greatly from state to state. If you are an employer or contractor, it is important to know the requirements for each state in which you conduct business. Please check with each state for further assistance.

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Some labor standards agencies also administer or enforce workplace safety and health programs. As you read in the child labor law section above, many labor standards laws directly impact workplace safety and health.

The state Consultation Program is a free program for employers designed to assist them with recognizing and abating (getting rid of) workplace hazards. This program is operated by most state labor departments, many times in the labor standards division. Your labor standards agency can assist you in locating this program in your state.

Many states are "state plan states." This means that the state operates its own occupational safety and health enforcement programs. These states are required to enforce safety standards that are equivalent to or exceed OSHA standards. For information for your state, contact federal OSHA or your state.

Some states labor standards agencies administer their state's workers' compensation insurance laws, or a similar program. Some have programs that assist in preventing fraud by workers or employers. Some have programs that require workplace safety and health committees, or a required level of safety and health program management. Please contact your state to find out where you can get assistance.

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A wide variety of other laws exist that many ILSA members administer, enforce, or provide assistance with. Please contact your state agency, or click on the state name in the state ILSA Contact list provided for more information.

We encourage and assist in the effective administration of labor laws. We endeavor to provide fair and equitable delivery of services and protections to wage earners and to provide a safe and legal work environment for young workers. We also strive to assist those employers operating in a fair and just manner by assuring consistent administration of labor standards laws.

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