The following was published recently on the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) website. It outlines the basics in a recent DOL proposal that aims to keep kids more safe when working in the agricultural field. However, the proposal has gotten a lot of critiquing from those in the ag world that want the right to share with children the work ethic and values that agriculture teaches. A comment period on the proposal has ended and the DOL is currently assessing those comments.
Fact # 1: The proposed Child Labor in Agriculture rule will not prohibit all people under the age of 18 from working on a farm.
The proposed rule would not change any of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum age standards for agricultural employment. Under the FLSA, the legal age to be employed on a farm without restrictions is 16. The FLSA also allows children between the ages of 12 and 15 years, under certain conditions, to be employed outside of school hours to perform nonhazardous jobs on farms. Children under the age of 12 may be employed with parental permission on very small farms to perform nonhazardous jobs outside of school hours.
Young people can be employed to perform many jobs on the farm – and this would be true even if the proposed rule were adopted as written. The proposed rule would, however, prohibit the employment of workers under the age of 18 in nonagricultural occupations in the farm-product raw materials wholesale trade industries. Prohibited establishments would include country grain elevators, grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, feed yards, stockyard, livestock exchanges, and livestock auctions not on a farm or used solely by a single farmer. What these locations have in common is that many workers, including children, have suffered occupational deaths or serious injuries working in these facilities over the last few years.
Fact # 2: The proposed rule would not eliminate the parental exemption for owners/operators of a family farm.
The parental exemption for the owner or operator of a farm is statutory and cannot be eliminated through the regulatory process. A child of any age may perform any job, even hazardous work, at any age at any time on a farm owned by his or her parent. A child of any age whose parent operates a farm may also perform any task, even hazardous jobs, on that farm but only outside of school hours. So for children working on farms that are registered as LLCs, but operated solely by their parents, the parental exemption would still apply.
Fact # 3: This proposed regulation will not eliminate 4-H and FFA programs.
The Department of Labor fully supports the important contributions both 4-H and the FFA make toward developing our children. The proposed rule would in no way prohibit a child from raising or caring for an animal in a non-employment situation — even if the animal were housed on a working farm — as long as he or she is not hired or “employed” to work with the animal. In such a situation, the child is not acting as an “employee” and is not governed by the child labor regulations. And there is nothing in the proposed rule that would prevent a child from being employed to work with animals other than in those specific situations identified in the proposal as particularly hazardous.
Fact # 4: Under the proposed rule, children will still be able to help neighbors in need of help.
In order for the child labor provisions of the FLSA to apply, there must first be an employer/employee relationship. The lone act of helping a neighbor round up loose cattle who have broken out of their fencing, for example, generally would not establish an employer/employee relationship.
Fact # 5: Children will still be able to take animals to the county fair or to market.
A child who raises and cares for his or her animal — for example, as part of a 4-H project — is not being employed by anyone, and thus is outside the coverage of the FLSA. Even if the child needs to rent space from a farm, the animal is not part of the farm’s business and with regard to the care of the animal no employer/employee relationship exists, so the child labor provisions would not apply. Likewise, there would be no problem with taking the animal to the county fair or to market, since the child is doing this on his/her own behalf – not on behalf of an employer. The proposed prohibitions would apply only if the child was an employee of the exchange or auction.
© Northern Ag Network 2012
With Information from the Department of Labor