Youth Workers: What Work Are They Allowed To Do?

We all know, to one degree or another, about stories of how children were forced to work many long, hard hours at and near the turn of the last century especially.  What you may not know, however, is that Pennsylvania’s most recent child labor laws were passed in 2012.  The Pennsylvania Child Labor Act of 2012 (effective 2013), the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), and its many regulations are still very much in force today.  I am finding that I receive any number of calls each year about these issues.  Failure to abide by these laws can be costly.

A violation of the FLSA can subject an employer to a civil fine of up to $11,000 for each minor/child in violation.  If death or serious injury are involved, the fine may be increased to $50,000, with some penalties doubled to $100,000 where the violations are willful or repeated.  So, the stakes are high and frankly, when in doubt, I urge employers to take the most conservative approach to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

The federal law includes a list of various types of activities that are banned for all minors under the age of 18.  These are referred to as “Hazardous Occupations” (HO).  There are essentially 17 HO outlined by the federal government.  A few examples of HO include as follows: working with power-driven woodworking machines, power driven saws, roofing operations (both on and off the roof), trenching and excavation activities, etc. No minor may engage in a HO. The federal law also has a list of prohibited jobs for minors 15 and under including, but not limited to: window washing, work on ladders and scaffolds, all baking and most cooking activities, catching and cooping poultry, working with and on any power-driven machinery (i.e., lawnmower, golf cart, weed-eaters, etc.), construction, and public messenger service.

Pennsylvania law also prohibits anyone under 18 from doing certain types of jobs which include, as an example, some of the following: electrical work, welder, and woodworking (although 16-17 years olds may place material on moving chain/hopper for automatic feeding).

If you are thinking about hiring youth workers, or if you have questions about whether job activities your youth workers are performing is legal, contact the Pennsylvania Employment lawyers at Trinity Law for help at Also look for an upcoming blog about youth wage and hour law.