By Peggy Kirk Hall, Ohio State University Associate Professor, Agricultural & Resource Law
When kids head back-to-school, it’s time for farmers to do some homework and recall the rules that apply to youth working on farms during the school year. Once school is in session, Ohio labor laws place restrictions on the times of day and number of hours that youth under the age of 18 can work on a farm. The laws don’t apply to parents, grandparents, or legal guardians, however. For other farm employers, be aware that the laws vary according to the age of the minor and some require written parental consent. Here’s a quick refresher.
16 and 17 year olds
• Cannot work before 7:00 a.m. on school days, with the exception that they can work starting at 6:00 a.m. if they were not working past 8:00 p.m. the night before.
• Cannot work after 11:00 p.m. on a school night, which means a night when the minor has school the next day.
• No daily or weekly limits on the number of hours the youth can work.
14 and 15 year olds
• Cannot work during school hours while school is in session.
• Cannot work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m., but can work until 9:00 p.m. from June 1 to Sept. 1 or during any school holiday or break lasting more than 5 weekdays.
• Cannot work more than 3 hours during a school day or more than 8 hours during a non-school day.
• Cannot work more than 18 hours in a week while school is in session, unless the job is part of a work education program such as vocational training or work study.
12 and 13 year olds
• The same time restrictions and daily and weekly hour limits for 14 and 15 year olds (above) apply to 12 and 13 year olds, but there is no exception to the 18-hour weekly limit for vocational training or work study programs.
• Employer must obtain written parental consent for the youth to be working, unless the youth’s parent or legal guardian also works on the same farm.
Under 12 years old
• Can only work on a farm where employees are exempt from the federal minimum wage, which includes a farms of an immediate family member or a “small farm” that used fewer than 500 “man days” of agricultural labor in any calendar quarter the preceding year. A “man day” is a day during which an employee performs agricultural work for at least one hour.
• Exception to the above: local youths 10 and 11 may hand harvest short-season crops outside school hours for no more than 8 weeks between June 1 and Oct. 15 if their employers have obtained special waivers from the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
• The same daily time restrictions and daily and weekly hour limits for 14- and 15-year-olds (above) apply to youth under 12 years old, but there is no exception to the 18 hour weekly limit for vocational training or work study programs.
• Employer must obtain written parental consent for the youth to be working.
The other labor laws that typically apply to youth doing agricultural work on a farm continue to apply throughout the school year. For example, employers must maintain records for youth employees, provide a written agreement of compensation and a statement of earnings on payday, and a 30-minute rest period if the youth works more than five consecutive hours. An employer can’t assign any youth under the age of 16 with a “hazardous” job or task unless the youth is 14 or 15 and has a certificate of completion for tractor or machine operation.
Further information about these and other laws that apply to youth under 18 working on a farm is in our new Law Bulletin, Youth Labor on the Farm: Laws Farmers Need to Know, available at https://farmoffice.osu.edu/sites/aglaw/files/site-library/YouthLabor.pdf.