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Serving: West

Check state, federal labor laws for employing minors

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Federal child labor laws tend to be stricter than most state laws and must be applied in all circumstances where they provide greater protection.

In the face of the current workforce shortage, many employers are revisiting current policies requiring employees to be at least 18 years of age and expanding job opportunities to young workers.

Employers considering such policy changes should keep in mind state and federal child labor laws ensure minors receive access to safe occupations that do not jeopardize their health, well-being, or educational opportunities.

Federal child labor laws tend to be stricter than most state laws and must be applied in all circumstances where they provide greater protection including the payment of wages.

Here are some examples of child labor laws in Western states.


The Arizona Department of Labor enforces and administers the state’s Youth Employment Laws. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) under the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S Department of Labor, also regulates the employment of minors. Employers faced with differing state and federal laws must apply the law most protective of the minor. State laws regulate the hours a minor can work and prohibit certain occupations in which they can be employed. Severe limitations placed on the hours and type of work that can be performed by minors under the age of 16 make their employment impractical.

Minors working in Arizona are not required to obtain government work permits. Minors between the ages of 16 and 18 are employable if the occupation in question is not deemed hazardous under state or federal law. Minors under 17 years of age working in agriculture are prohibited from employment as motor vehicle drivers or outside helpers and may not be involved in the operation of “power-driven hoisting apparatus” (e.g., forklifts, cranes). Minors between 16 and 17 years old may drive on the job so longs as the total drive time does not exceed two hours per day or 25% of their workday and is limited to not more than fifty or more miles per day. However, since federal law prohibits 16 and 17 year olds from driving on the job, employers should consult counsel before employing such minors in any job that requires them to drive.

Exceptions to the state’s occupational restrictions are as follows:

  • When youths are employed by a parent or relative and that person owns at least 10% of them company and is actively engaged in the daily operation of the organization.
  • When youths are employed in career education programs, vocational or technical training school programs.
  • When youths are employed as apprentices and registered by the Arizona Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training.
  • When youths are employed under the 4-H Federal Extension Service or the United States office of education vocational agriculture training programs.
  • Those employing more than 25 employees (e.g., larger employers) and those employing 25 or fewer employees (e.g., small employers).


California employers must comply with both state and federal laws regulating the employment of minors. Severe limitations placed on the hours and type of work that can be performed by children under the age of 16 make their employment impractical.

With some exceptions, California has adopted federal agricultural occupational prohibitions for minors under the age of 16. The U.S. WHD’s Child Labor Bulletin provides detailed information on FLSA provisions applicable to minors employed in agriculture. The California Department of Industrial Relations also provides a very helpful table summarizing its child labor laws.

With limited exception, all California minors under the age of 18 must have a permit to work. Employers seeking to employ minors must possess a valid Permit to Employ and Work. The Permit is typically issued by authorized individuals at the minors’ school or from the school’s superintendent when school is not in session. Minor Work Permits are also typically issued by the individual’s school officials. Work Permits must be renewed on an annual basis.


Colorado employers must also comply with both state and federal laws and as noted above, apply the law most protective of the minor worker. Colorado’s Youth Employment Opportunity Act (CYEOA) sets state standards for the employment of workers under the age of 18.

Minors in Colorado are limited by the hours and days they are allowed to work and must obtain a work permit to perform work during school hours. For more information and exemptions to the CYEOA visit the Colorado Department of Labor’s Youth Law homepage.

New Mexico

Following state and federal laws, New Mexico provides guidance on employing minors through the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions (NMDWS). In conjunction with federal labor laws, New Mexico regulates the hours, days and types of jobs youth workers are allowed to perform.

Work permits are also required for those under 18 years of age.

For additional information visit the NMDWS.

[Teresa McQueen is Corporate Counsel for Western Growers.]

Source: Western Growers, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 
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