In the wake of two Dunkin Donuts franchise owners being fined $6,000.00 for child labor in Massachusetts, and with winter break upon us, many may be confused as to what standards Massachusetts currently holds regarding the employment of minors.
In 1836, Massachusetts was the first state to create laws restricting child labor. Today, child labor laws still exist, despite some recent criticism. Many critics suggest that children should be able to work to gain valuable experience and give themselves greater flexibility. The opponents’ message is clear, that children should focus on their education to fulfill their potential.
Recently, Maine has slightly loosened its child labor restrictions, though they are far from the strictest state regarding child labor. Missouri also recently proposed a bill that would have completely removed all child labor laws, however, had this gone through, federal standards would still apply.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), though less restrictive than many states’ regulations, would still limit the number of hours and how late 16 and 17 year old students can work. These FLSA regulations have even been challenged by several members of the Tea Party; they are challenging the validity of the precedent dating back to the early 1940’s and the constitutionality of such laws.
Specifically in Massachusetts, children under the age of 14 may not work with few exceptions - as news carriers, on farms, and in entertainment. These would still require a special permit. Children aged 14-15 may only work a maximum of 18 hours per week during the school year and only between 7AM and 7PM during non-school hours.
Restrictions on those under the age of 16 run the gamut from not being able to operate microwave ovens to not being able to work in a barber shop. For those who are 16-17 years old, they may only work from 6AM to 10PM or 1130PM, depending on whether the next day is a school day, (with the exception of racetracks and restaurants, where the latest work time is midnight when the next day is not a school day.)
Similarly, for children under the age of 18, restrictions range from not being able to drive a forklift to not being able to work where they are exposed to radioactive substances.
If you have questions about child labor laws it would be wise to consult with an employment law attorney to prevent potentially costly infractions.
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