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Putting Minors To Work – Pitfalls To Avoid In Child Labor Law In Pennsylvania

When summertime is in full swing, many employers swell the ranks of their staff with minors under eighteen years of age. Our young employees are ambitious, eager, and full of energy. They have a lot to learn, and we have a lot to teach them. But when was the last time the company considered what risks it accepts when hiring minors as employees?

Probably the most important Pennsylvania law on the subject is found at 43 P.S. § 41 et seq.. The chapter is entitled “Employment of Infants,” but it is often referred to as the Child Labor Law. The Child Labor Law is administered in accordance with 34 Pa.Code Chapter 11, which speaks to the employment of minors both in theatrical-type performances and industry. This article is not intended to provide specific detailed information about every type of business in which a minor might be engaged, but rather it is intended to highlight some interesting facts, and pitfalls, regarding the employment of minors.

The most important piece of information to know about employing minors is that their employment cannot interfere with school. In fact, the Child Labor Law places the burden of enforcing the law not only on the Secretary of Labor and Industry, but also on chief school administrators, home and school visitors, attendance officers, and secretaries of boards of school directors of the school districts, in addition to the police. 43 P.S. § 66.


The general rule is that minors under 16 years of age may not be employed, except in certain occupations enumerated in the Child Labor Law, and under no circumstances may the employment interfere with school. The Child Labor Law is almost laughably specific about the types of occupations in which minors can be engaged. For instance, a minor between the ages of twelve and fourteen years may be employed as a caddy subject to the limitation that he or she carries not more than one golf bag at a time and for not more than eighteen holes of golf in any one day. 43 P.S. § 42.

You may be surprised by the level of detail spelled out in the Child Labor Law. The following are some edited selections from 43 P.S. § 44 (Prohibited employment for minors under 16 and 18):

No minor under sixteen years of age shall be employed or permitted to work in, about, or in connection with, any manufacturing or mechanical occupation or process; nor on scaffolding; nor in heavy work in the building trades; nor in stripping or assorting tobacco; nor in any tunnel; nor upon any railroad, steam, electric, or otherwise; nor upon any boat engaged in the transportation of passengers or merchandise; nor in operating motor-vehicles of any description; nor in any anthracite or bituminous coal-mine, or in any other mine.

No minor under eighteen years of age shall be employed or permitted to work in the operation or management of hoisting machines, in oiling or cleaning machinery, in motion; at switch-tending, at gate-tending, at track-repairing; as a brakeman, fireman, engineer, or motorman or conductor, upon a railroad or railway; as a pilot, fireman, or engineer upon any boat or vessel; in the manufacture of paints, colors, or white lead in any capacity; in preparing compositions in which dangerous leads or acids are used; in the manufacture or use of dangerous or poisonous dyes; in any dangerous occupation in or about any mine; nor in or about any establishment wherein gunpowder, nitroglycerine, dynamite, or other high or dangerous explosive is manufactured or compounded: Provided, That minors age fourteen and over may operate power lawn mowing equipment: And provided further, That such minors may be employed in bowling centers as snack bar attendants, porters, control desk clerks and scorer attendants.

No minor under eighteen years of age shall be employed or permitted to work in, about, or in connection with, any establishment where alcoholic liquors are distilled, rectified, compounded, brewed, manufactured, bottled, sold, or dispensed; nor in a pool or billiard room: Provided, That male or female minors sixteen years of age and over may be employed and permitted to work that part of a motel, restaurant, club or hotel in which liquor or malt or brewed beverages are not served: And, provided further, That minors sixteen years of age and over may be employed to serve food, clear tables and perform other duties, not to include the dispensing or serving of alcoholic beverages… Nothing in this section should be construed as prohibiting minors fourteen and fifteen years of age to be employed at ski resorts, golf courses and amusement parks as long as they are not permitted to serve or handle alcoholic beverages and as long as they do not work in any room in which alcohol is being served or stored.

For most of the above occupations, the Pennsylvania Administrative Code sets out even more specific details about what minors can and can’t do.

Regulated Days and Hours

The times during which a minor can work are just as regulated as the occupations in which they can work. For instance, 43 P.S. § 46 provides in part:

No minor under eighteen years of age shall be employed or permitted to work in, about, or in connection with any establishment, or in any occupation, for more than six consecutive days in any one week, or more than forty-four hours in any one week, or more than eight hours in any one day… no minor under eighteen years of age, who is enrolled in regular day school and working outside school hours, shall be employed or permitted to work for more than twenty-eight hours during a school week.

No minor under sixteen years of age shall be employed or permitted to work in, about, or in connection with, any establishment or in any occupation before seven o’clock in the morning or after seven o’clock in the evening of any day except during school vacation period from June to Labor Day when such minor may work between the hours of seven o’clock in the morning and ten o’clock in the evening nor shall such a minor who is enrolled in school and working outside school hours be employed or permitted to work in, about, or in connection with, any establishment or in any occupation more than four hours on a school day, or more than eight hours on any other day, or more than eighteen hours during a school week…

No minor under eighteen years of age shall be employed or permitted to work for more than five hours continuously in, about, or in connection with, any establishment without an interval of at least thirty minutes for a lunch period and no period of less than thirty minutes shall be deemed to interrupt a continuous period of work.

No minor under eighteen years of age shall be employed or permitted to work in, about, or in connection with, any establishment between the hours of twelve in the evening and six in the morning if such minor is enrolled in regular day school: Provided, That, minors sixteen and seventeen years of age may be employed until, but not after, one o’clock in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays, and on days preceding a school vacation occurring during the school year, excepting the last day of such vacation period.

Work Permits

43 P.S. § 49 (Employment certificates and transferable work permits) speaks for itself:

(a) Before any minor under eighteen years of age shall be employed, permitted, or suffered to work in, about, or in connection with, any establishment, or in any occupation, the person employing such minor shall procure and keep on file, and accessible to any attendance officer, deputy factory inspector, or other authorized inspector or officer charged with the enforcement of this act, an employment certificate as hereinafter provided, issued for said minor.

Application for the employment certificate must be made by the parent, guardian, or legal custodian of the minor for whom such employment certificate or transferable work permit is requested. 43 P.S. § 51. To receive an employment certificate, the minor may be required to undergo a physical examination and receive a certificate of physical fitness. 43 P.S. § 55.

If an employer hires a minor with a transferable work permit, the employer has certain duties of record keeping and reporting to the school district, which may be found at 43 P.S. § 58.1. See also the Public School Code at 24 P.S. § 13-1391 (Employment of children under eighteen unlawful without employment certificate or permit).

Posting of Names and Hours

43 P.S. § 63 provides in part that

It shall be the duty of every person who shall employ any minor, under the age of eighteen years, to post and keep posted, in a conspicuous place in every establishment wherein said minor is employed, permitted or suffered to work, a printed abstract of the sections of this act relating to the hours of labor, and a list or lists of all minors employed under the age of eighteen years and a schedule of the hours of labor of such minors. The schedule of hours of labor herein required shall contain the name of the minor employed or permitted to work, the maximum number of hours such minor shall be required or permitted to work on each day of the week with the total for the week, the hours for commencing and stopping work, and the hours when the time allowed for meals shall begin and end for each day of the week.

See also the Public School Code at 24 P.S. § 13-1393 (Posting of information by employers of children).


There can be significant penalties for violating the Child Labor Law. Any person, including agents and managers, who violates the Child Labor Law can be sentenced to pay a fine for a first offense of between $200.00 and $400.00, and, on a subsequent offense, to pay a fine of between $750.00 and $1,500.00, or to undergo an imprisonment of not more than ten days, or both, at the discretion of the court. 43 P.S. § 65. The Pennsylvania Code also sets out specific penalties for violating individual Code sections, which can carry misdemeanor penalties.

Furthermore, the Public School Code itself sets out penalties for violations of the Child Labor Law, including fines and jail time. See 24 P.S. § 13-1394.

Other Laws and New Legislation

Certain other laws regarding the employment of minors are noteworthy. The Workers’ Compensation Act makes it clear that minors may receive compensation for work injuries even though they were working in violation of child labor laws. 77 P.S. § 421. More importantly, if the minor is illegally employed, the compensation due is 150% of the amount that would be payable to the minor if legally employed, and the employer, not the insurance carrier, is liable for the additional compensation. 77 P.S. § 672.

There are federal laws that touch on the issue of child labor as well. The Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., prohibits trade in goods produced by “oppressive child labor.” The U.S. House of Representatives has deliberated on proposed legislation, including the “Children’s Act for Responsible Employment of 2001,” which was introduced June 19, 2001 at H.R. 2239, and a “Young American Workers’ Bill of Rights,” which was introduced on March 8, 2001 at H.R. 961.


Both the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Federal Government take child labor very seriously. Hopefully this article will have given you a broader awareness of the depth of the regulations in this area, and a spotlight on some of the pitfalls to avoid. As always, if you have questions be sure to contact your attorney or human resources consultant. Enjoy the youth and energy of our young associates, and employ them wisely.

The attorneys of Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C. have experience representing both employers and employees in employment litigation cases. We can counsel businesses regarding actual and potential employment claims. Our lawyers can help you learn your employment law rights and protect those rights. Click here to contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can discuss your employment situation. We look forward to speaking with you.

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