Fair Labor Standards Act
FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT
The Fair Labor Standards Act controls the employment of children. Child labor, defined as employment of children less than eighteen years of age, has become increasingly common in American society, and it is widespread in many societies around the world. In many countries, children begin working at ages as young as three or four. Legal requirements to attend school are ignored or evaded through measures such as providing a few minutes of instruction each day in "carpet schools."
In the United States, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, children under sixteen years of age may not work during school hours, and, by law, limits are set on the number of hours of employment allowed on each school day and cumulatively for each school week. In general, employment should be in a nonhazardous, nonagriculturally related job where restrictions are in place regarding work that would be hazardous to this age group. For example, no one under eighteen is allowed to work in mining, logging, brickmaking, roofing, or excavating, or to operate power-driven machinery. In other settings, work is prohibited with equipment such as meat slicers, box crushers, and power-driven heavy equipment.
The agricultural setting does not generally come under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and there are no regulations regarding children working on family farms. Children as young as four or five have chores related to farming activity. Unfortunately, farming activity, while not regulated, is a serious source of hazard. Over one hundred American children below the age of eighteen die working on farms each year. The only restrictions for agriculture are to preclude children from applying pesticides and herbicides.
In reality, many adolescents under eighteen often work far more hours than are allowed, and some do jobs that put them at considerable risk. Some jobs appear to be relatively benign, such as packers in grocery stores, but in the fast-food business adolescents are often abused with regard to working hours (e.g., "clocking out" but continuing to work), or they are asked to handle dangerous equipment such as deep fat fryers. In most states there is a lack of supervision of children in the workplace, and accurate data collection is often not available. Studies have begun to document poor school performance due to excessive work hours.
Another aspect of poor record keeping regards filing for health claims. When a child is hurt in a workplace setting, he or she is often asked to obtain care under parental insurance, rather than applying through the worker's compensation system, which would allow for a better tracking of difficulties in the workplace.
There are seasonal variations in injuries and fatalities among working children, with more injuries occurring during the summer months when
ARTHUR L. FRANK
Pollock, S. H.; Rubenstein, H. L.; and Landrigan, P. J. (1992). "Child Labor." In Public Health and Preventive Medicine, 13th edition, eds. J. Last and R. B. Wallace. Norwalk, CT: Appleton & Lange.