US Federal Labor Laws

April 8th 2024

This article covers:

What are US Federal Laws?

Federal law is legislation enacted at the national level and applies to the entire United States, including all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. The foundation of federal law is the U.S. Constitution, which establishes the powers and responsibilities of the government and safeguards the fundamental rights of every citizen.

Federal laws are composed of bills that have undergone the legislative process, including passage by both houses of Congress, approval by the president, override of a presidential veto, or allowance to become law without the president’s signature. 

These laws, individually, are known as acts, and they are categorized in the United States Code by subject matter. 

Regulations, on the other hand, are rules created by executive departments and agencies, and they are organized in the Code of Federal Regulations by subject.

What are US Federal Time Management Laws?

In the US, there are federal laws in place to manage the time spent by employees in the workplace, safeguarding their rights and guaranteeing fair pay for their 

efforts. These laws act as directives for employers, keeping them in check, and minimizing any forms of abuse or exploitation.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which dates back to 1938, is a critical federal law for time management, setting hourly wage rates and overtime pay, and requiring employers to keep an accurate record of their employees’ working hours. Overtime is pegged at 1.5 times the regular hourly rate for workers who exceed 40 hours a week. However, certain job categories, including executives, professionals, and administrative employees, are exempt from overtime pay depending on their job description and salary.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another essential federal law that governs time management in the workplace, entitling eligible employees to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, such as the birth or adoption of a child or caring for a family member with a serious health condition. This act also requires employers to maintain employees’ health benefits during their leave and restore them to their previous or equivalent positions upon their return to work.

Employers who contravene federal time management laws face severe legal ramifications, including fines, back pay, and damages. If workers feel that their employer has violated federal time management laws, they can file complaints with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division for investigation and legal action.

Overall, federal time management laws are instrumental in ensuring that workers are compensated fairly for their time and effort in the workplace, protecting them from abuse and exploitation by employers. The Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act are vital federal laws that govern time management and worker compensation, ensuring fair labor practices across various sectors, including non-profit, public, and private organizations.

Learn more about US Working Time and it’s suggested 4-day Workweek.

Federal Minimum Wage $7.25
Federal Overtime 1.5x regular wage for any time worked over 40 hours/week ($10.87 for minimum wage workers)
Federal Breaks Lunch or coffee breaks are not mandated by federal law.

What are the Hiring, Working and Termination Federal Laws in the US?

In the US, it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against a prospective employee based on their:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy)
  • National origin
  • Age (40 or older)
  • Disability
  • Genetic information

For instance, an employer cannot withhold employment applications from individuals just because they are older.

Employers are prohibited from making hiring or recruitment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about these factors or posting job advertisements that demonstrate a preference for or discourage individuals from applying for a position based on them. 

If any tests are required by the employer, they must be necessary and directly related to the job, and the employer cannot exclude potential employees based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, or disabilities. Furthermore, if the test does not have a reasonable basis other than age, the employer cannot use it to exclude applicants who are 40 years old or older.

In cases where a job applicant with a disability requires an accommodation, such as a sign language interpreter, to apply for a job, the employer is obligated to provide the accommodation as long as it does not impose significant difficulty or expense on the employer.

When making decisions regarding discipline or termination, employers are prohibited from considering an individual’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. 

For instance, if two employees commit a similar offense, it is impermissible for an employer to apply different disciplinary actions based on these factors. Employers also cannot select employees solely based on their age, targeting older workers for dismissal due to their age.

In the event of job loss, some workers and their families may have the option to continue their group health benefits through their employer’s group health plan for a limited period of time. This is made possible by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Employers may also have specific obligations to provide necessary notifications to their employees regarding these benefits.

What Are the Key Federal Labor Laws in the US?

Now, we will discuss some key federal labor laws in the US that may not be related to the categories we have previously explored. Some of these regulations include:

  • Whistleblower Protection Act – The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) 5 U.S.C. § 2302 (b)(8) safeguards federal employees and applicants for federal employment against retaliation when they make protected disclosures. Under the WPA, a disclosure is considered protected if the employee reasonably believes that the information being disclosed provides evidence of any violation of any law, rule, or regulation, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, and substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. The WPA also imposes penalties on supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers. Employers are prohibited from taking retaliatory actions, or threatening to do so, against an employee or job applicant based on their protected disclosure. Retaliatory actions can encompass a wide range of personnel decisions, including but not limited to performance evaluations, transfers, promotions, demotions, terminations, and access to training opportunities.
  • Background Check Laws – Subject to certain exceptions, the Fair Chance Act, restricts Federal agencies and Federal contractors, when acting on behalf of the agencies, from asking job applicants to disclose their criminal history record information prior to the agency extending a conditional offer of employment. Although the Act was enacted in 2019, its application is limited to contracts awarded based on solicitations issued after December 20, 2021. The Act also includes the ban-the-box provision, which prohibits federal contractors from asking about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional job offer has been made. The aim of this provision is to facilitate employment opportunities for individuals with a criminal record.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents discrimination against individuals with disabilities in various domains, such as employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services. Within the context of employment, Title I of the ADA, which took effect on July 26, 1992, safeguards the rights of both employees and job seekers and prohibits employers with 25 or more employees from engaging in discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. From July 26, 1994, onwards, Title I expanded its coverage to include employers with 15 or more employees.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants eligible employees working for covered employers the right to take unpaid and job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons. During this leave, employees are entitled to maintain their group health insurance coverage on the same terms as if they were actively working. The FMLA provides different entitlements for eligible employees based on their qualification status and may be taken for reasons that include but are not limited to the birth of a child, caring for a newborn, care of a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition, caring for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness.
  • National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) – Also known as the Wagner Act, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is a federal labor law enacted in 1935 in the United States. The NLRA safeguards the rights of the majority of employees to engage in collective bargaining and other concerted activities for the purpose of mutual aid or protection, regardless of whether their workplace is unionized or not. It establishes the rights of employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, engage in collective bargaining, and engage in strikes or other forms of concerted activity.
  • Civil Rights Act – The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal legislation in the US that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It was enacted to address and dismantle racial segregation and promote equality in various aspects of public life. There are eleven titles of the Civil Rights Act, each addressing different areas of discrimination.
  • Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act – The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act is a federal law enacted in the US in 1970 to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for employees by establishing certain rights and responsibilities for employers and workers. The Act is overseen by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor and enforces this law through inspections and investigations of workplaces. OSHA also offers assistance and cooperative programs to promote compliance with safety and health requirements.
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) – The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) prohibits most private employers from using lie detector tests in employment. Employers cannot require or request employees or job applicants to take such tests, and they cannot discriminate against individuals for refusing to take them or exercising their rights under the Act. Employers are also restricted from using or basing employment decisions on the results of lie detector tests or retaliating against employees who file complaints or participate in proceedings under the Act. There are limited exceptions allowing polygraph tests for certain job applicants in security service firms and pharmaceutical companies. The Act imposes strict standards for the administration of polygraph tests, including licensing requirements for examiners and limitations on information disclosure. Government employers at the federal, state, and local levels are not subject to the provisions of the Act.
  • Employee Monitoring Laws – The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) is a federal law enacted in 1986 to regulate the interception of wire, oral, and electronic communications. Its purpose is to address privacy concerns related to electronic communication technologies applying to various forms of communication, including email, telephone conversations, and electronically stored data. Prior to the ECPA, there was no specific legal standard for intercepting electronic communications, although the Federal Wiretap Act covered spoken communications. A component of the ECPA is the Stored Communications Act (SCA) which regulates the access and disclosure of electronic communications. It specifically focuses on emails and messages that are stored on electronic communication platforms and not in transit.
  • COBRA: Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) grants individuals who lose their health benefits certain rights to continue their group health coverage for a limited period. This includes situations like job loss, reduction in hours, job transitions, divorce, or other qualifying events. Under COBRA, eligible individuals may be responsible for paying the full premium for coverage, up to 102% of the plan’s cost. The act mandates employers with 20 or more employees to offer employees and their families the option to extend their health coverage temporarily through a process known as continuation coverage.
  • Recordkeeping Laws – Employers who fall under the coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are required to maintain specific records for each nonexempt employee. These records do not need to follow a specific format, but they must contain accurate information. Such records must include:
    • Full name and social security number of the employee
    • Address, including the zip code
    • Birth date, if the employee is younger than 19
    • Gender and occupation of the employee
    • Start time and day of the employee’s workweek
    • Daily hours worked and the total hours worked per workweek
    • The basis used for determining the employee’s wages
    • Regular hourly pay rate of the employee
    • Total amount of straight-time earnings earned each day or week
    • Total earnings for overtime worked during the workweek
    • Any additional payments or deductions made from the employee’s wages
    • Total wages paid for each pay period
    • Date of payment and the corresponding pay period

US Federal Payment Laws

To start off, let’s take a look at the laws that govern how much employees must be paid. We’ll delve into the details of minimum wage standards, including any exceptions that may apply. 

What is the Federal Minimum Payment in the US?

The minimum wage set by the federal government for the year 2024 remains at $7.25 per hour. However, recognizing that this rate has not been increased since July 2009, certain states and municipalities have taken the initiative to raise their own minimum wages.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) encompasses the regulations regarding the federal minimum wage. As of July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage stands at $7.25 per hour. It’s important to note that numerous states have their own minimum wage laws, and in some cases, these state laws offer more comprehensive protections for employees. Employers are obligated to adhere to both federal and state minimum wage regulations.

It’s worth mentioning that the FLSA does not outline specific procedures for the collection of an employee’s usual or promised wages or commissions that exceed the requirements set by the FLSA. However, certain states have enacted laws that allow employees to file claims for such payments, and in some instances, these claims may cover additional benefits beyond wages, commonly known as fringe benefits.

Employers in the US may pay a reduced minimum wage for tipped workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a tipped employee refers to someone who regularly receives more than $30 per month in tips as part of their job. In such cases, federal employers are obligated to pay a minimum direct wage of $2.13 per hour, given that when combined with the tips received, it equals or surpasses the federal minimum wage of $7.25. If the employee’s tips, along with the employer’s direct wages of at least $2.13 per hour, fall short of the federal minimum wage, the employer must compensate the employee for the difference. It’s worth noting that several states have higher minimum wage requirements for tipped employees. Download U.S. Minimum Wage 2024 Poster now.

What are the Exceptions for Federal Minimum Payment in the US?

The FLSA provides exceptions to the overtime and minimum wage requirements for specific employees in administrative, professional, and executive roles, commonly referred to as “exempt” employees.

In order to be classified as exempt employees, individuals must meet certain requirements. Firstly, employers are required to pay these employees a minimum salary of $684 per week, though this amount might be subject to change depending on proposed regulations from the Department of Labor. Additionally, exempt employees generally receive their full salary for any week they work, regardless of the amount or quality of the work performed. Lastly, the primary duties of the employee must align with specific criteria outlined by the FLSA. 

It’s important to note that there are additional exemptions for outside sales employees and computer professional employees. The outside sales employee exemption does not have a minimum salary requirement. As for computer professional employees, they can be paid on a salary basis (with a minimum of $684 per week) or an hourly basis (with a minimum rate of $27.63 per hour).

Further, there are certain circumstances where specific minimum wage exceptions apply to different groups of workers. These exceptions include workers with disabilities, full-time students, youth under the age of 20 during their initial 90 consecutive calendar days of employment, tipped employees, and student-learners. 

What is the Federal Payment Due Date in the US?

There is no specific requirement in federal labor law regarding the frequency of employee payments. Any pay frequency is considered legal under federal law as long as it follows a regular and predictable schedule that employees can rely on. Employers must ensure that the pay frequency is consistent and adheres to federal guidelines, regardless of whether they choose to pay their employees weekly, monthly, or with any other frequency in between.

What are US Federal Overtime Laws?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) encompasses the regulations regarding federal overtime provisions. Unless they qualify for an exemption, employees who fall under the coverage of the Act must be compensated for working overtime, which is defined as exceeding 40 hours in a workweek, at a rate not less than one and a half times their regular pay. The FLSA does not set a limit on the number of hours that employees aged 16 and older can work in a given workweek.

It’s important to note that overtime pay is not mandated for work performed on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, or regular days of rest, unless those days involve overtime hours.

The Act is applied on a workweek basis, which consists of a fixed and recurring period of 168 hours, equivalent to seven consecutive 24-hour periods. This workweek does not necessarily need to align with the calendar week and can commence on any day and at any hour.

Employers have the flexibility to establish different workweeks for different employees or groups of employees. The averaging of hours over multiple weeks is not permitted.

Generally, overtime wages earned in a specific workweek must be paid on the regular payday for the corresponding pay period in which those wages were earned.

Since the regular federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, the federal overtime minimum wage is $10.87 per hour (one and a half times the minimum wage).

Learn more about how to calculate overtime in the US?

What are Federal Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in the US?

Employees who are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are typically required to meet specific criteria, including being paid a salary above a certain threshold and working in certain roles such as administrative, professional, executive, computer, or outside sales positions.

The Department of Labor (DOL) has established guidelines to determine eligibility for overtime pay. To be considered exempt, employees must receive a salary of at least $684 per week or $35,568 annually and perform job duties that fall under one of the exempt professions. Highly compensated employees earning $107,432 or more per year are also exempt from overtime pay.

However, it’s important to note that pay alone does not determine exempt or non-exempt status, although it may affect workplace policies. For example, employers with hourly workers must track time and attendance for accurate payroll purposes. Timekeeping is generally less crucial for salaried employees, unless there are incentives tied to additional hours worked.

Further, employers should not assume that employees are automatically exempt under the FLSA just because they receive a salary. If employees do not meet the requirements of an appropriate duties test, earn less than $684 per week or $35,568 per year, or have certain deductions from their salary, they may be eligible for overtime pay.

Certain industries may have hourly employees who are exempt from overtime pay, such as agriculture, movie theaters, and railroads, among others.


What are US Federal Time Off/Break Laws?

Under federal law, there is no requirement for employers to provide lunch or coffee breaks. However, some employers may choose to offer their employees a break to enhance productivity. If such breaks are offered, the employer must follow mandated break guidelines.

What are the Exceptions to Federal Break Law in the US?

If employers do offer short breaks that usually last around 5 to 20 minutes, those breaks are considered as work hours that should be included when calculating total hours worked during the workweek, potentially affecting overtime calculations.

If an authorized break is extended without the employer’s permission, the additional time does not need to be counted as hours worked, provided that the employer has clearly communicated that the break should only last for a specific duration, any extension is against company rules, and any unauthorized extension will be subject to disciplinary action.

On the other hand, meal periods, which typically last at least 30 minutes, are not considered work time and do not need to be compensated.

What are US Federal Breastfeeding Laws?

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), federal employers are obligated to grant reasonable break periods for employees to express breast milk for their nursing child. This requirement remains valid for up to one year after the child’s birth whenever the employee needs to express milk. Employers must also provide a suitable location at the workplace, which is not a bathroom, ensuring privacy and protection from coworkers and the public.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 was signed into law on December 29, 2022, incorporating the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act), which expands the rights of nursing employees to access break time and a private space for pumping at their workplace. 

What are US Federal Leave Laws?

There are various types of leaves that federal employers are legally required to provide, while there are others that are optional and at the discretion of the employer to provide.

What are the required Federal leaves in the US?

  • Advanced Sick Leave – Advance sick leave can be granted to employees in cases of serious disability, illness, incapacitation, or confinement due to childbirth. However, there are certain limits and conditions that apply. Employees must provide medical documentation and request the leave in advance. The total amount of advance sick leave cannot exceed 30 days or 240 hours. It’s important to note that advance sick leave should not be approved if the employee is following special leave procedures, if their return is unlikely, or if their ability to repay the leave is doubtful.
  • Annual Leave – Annual leave is provided to employees for purposes such as vacations, rest, personal business, emergencies, and addressing their own or their family member’s illness. Supervisors have the authority to determine when such leave can be scheduled, taking into account accrued leave balances and the staffing needs of the unit. There are certain conditions associated with annual leave. It is expected that employees request leave in advance, and if a request is denied, there should be a legitimate business reason such as workload or staffing levels. Unscheduled leave requests should be infrequent, and the management should carefully manage the use of leave to prevent staffing shortages. In certain cases, annual leave can be advanced to employees based on their projected earnings until the end of the leave year or until the end of their term appointment if they are on one.
  • Court Leave – Court leave can be utilized when an employee needs to fulfill their obligations for jury duty in a federal, state, or municipal court or when they are required to appear as a witness in a judicial proceeding involving the US government, District of Columbia, state, or local government. This leave cannot be granted for jury or witness duty performed during a period of non-pay status, such as leave without pay (LWOP) or absence without leave (AWOL). Further, employees who serve on an intermittent or when actually employed basis are not eligible for court leave. Documentation is required to support the need for court leave.
  • Administrative Leave – Excused absence, also known as administrative leave, allows employees to take time off without using their accrued leave or experiencing a loss of pay. It covers various situations, including but not limited to voting and voter registration, attendance at job-related conferences, blood donations (up to 2 hours), and visits to HR, EEO, or union representatives, or OMS for on-the-job injuries/illness or job-related surveillance programs. Employees may use up to 7 days of paid leave per calendar year to serve as a bone marrow donor. Additionally, they may use up to 30 days for organ donation, which can be in addition to their sick leave or annual leave. If an employee has less than 80 hours of accrued sick leave, they may be granted up to 4 hours for preventive health care. It’s important to note that administrative leave is generally not granted during the process of a disciplinary action.
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Eligible employees working for covered employers have the right under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specific family and medical reasons while maintaining their group health insurance coverage. Eligible employees can either take up to twelve workweeks of leave within a twelve-month period for various situations, including the birth of a child and caring for the newborn, the placement of a child for adoption or foster care and caring for the newly placed child, tending to a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition, dealing with a personal serious health condition that prevents job performance, or attending to qualifying exigencies due to a covered military member’s active duty. Or they can take up to twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single twelve-month period to care for a covered servicemember who has suffered a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, child, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).
  • Leave Without Pay (LWOP) – Leave without pay (LWOP) is a non-paid leave approved upon an employee’s request. Under certain circumstances, an employee’s supervisor may grant LWOP instead of using annual leave or sick leave. These circumstances include the employee’s own illness or the illness of a family member; when, as determined by health authorities or a healthcare provider, the employee’s presence at work could pose a health risk to others due to exposure to a communicable disease; to prevent a career or career-conditional employee, who is a dependent of a military or federal civilian employee being transferred, from experiencing a break in service. LWOP cannot be used as a disciplinary measure or penalty for an employee. Further, an employee cannot be compelled or forced to request LWOP instead of serving a suspension.
  • Military Leave – Military Leave can be taken by employees to fulfill military obligations, including active duty, training, or law enforcement. When taking such leave, the employee must have official military orders that require their presence. Military Leave can be granted for a maximum of 15 calendar days per fiscal year. In some cases, an employee may be eligible for an additional 22 days of Military Leave per year. The employee must have a permanent appointment. Employees on temporary appointments with a specified end date of one year or less are not eligible for Military Leave.
  • Sick Leave – There are no federal laws mandating paid sick leave at the moment. However, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific medical situations involving themselves or their immediate family members. In some cases, paid leave can be used instead of unpaid FMLA leave. To be eligible for FMLA leave, employees must have been employed by their employer for at least 12 months, worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the past 12 months, and be employed at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
  • Voting Time Leave – Federal employees are now eligible to receive up to four hours of administrative leave to participate in federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial elections. Additionally, federal employees can also utilize up to four hours of administrative leave annually to serve as non-partisan poll workers or observers.
  • Paid Parental Leave – Under the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA), eligible Federal employees can receive up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave in connection with a qualifying birth or placement for adoption or foster care. This paid parental leave replaces unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and is available within 12 months after the birth or placement. To be eligible for paid parental leave, employees must meet FMLA eligibility requirements. The 12 weeks of paid parental leave must be used within the 12-month period following the birth or placement, as long as the employee has an ongoing parental role with the child. Prior to taking the paid leave, employees must agree in writing to work for the employing agency for at least 12 weeks after the leave concludes.
  • Organ and Bone Donation Leave – Employees are entitled to use up to 7 days of paid leave per calendar year for bone marrow donation and up to 30 days of paid leave per calendar year for organ donation. This type of leave is separate from annual and sick leave. It is the responsibility of agencies to inform their employees about the availability of leave for bone marrow and organ donation.

What are the non-required Federal leaves in the US?

Employers are not obligated to grant the employee certain leave of absence. These include:

  • Bereavement Leave – According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there is no obligation to provide payment for time that is not worked, such as attending a funeral. The provision of this benefit is typically determined through an agreement between the employer and the employee (or the employee’s representative).
  • Vacation Time – Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there is no mandatory requirement for employers to provide payment for time that is not worked, including vacations or holidays (whether federal or otherwise). The provision of these benefits is typically determined through an agreement between the employer and the employee (or the employee’s representative).
  • Holiday Leave – Employers are not required to grant their employees any paid time off for holidays

Here is a table of federal holidays observed in US:

Federal Holiday Date
New Year’s Day January 1
Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Third Monday in January
Inauguration Day January 20 (every 4 years after a presidential election)
Washington’s Birthday (Presidents’ Day) Third Monday in February
Memorial Day Last Monday in May
Juneteenth National Independence Day June 19
Independence Day July 4
Labor Day First Monday in September
Columbus Day Second Monday in October
Veterans Day November 11
Thanksgiving Day Fourth Thursday in November
Christmas Day December 25

What are US Federal Child Labor Laws?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes regulations for the wages, working hours, and safety of minors (individuals under 18 years old) employed in jobs covered by the law. The specific requirements depend on the age of the minor and the type of job involved. Generally, the FLSA sets the minimum employment age at 14 years old and limits the working hours for minors under 16 years old.

The FLSA also prohibits the employment of minors in hazardous occupations as determined by the Secretary of Labor. Specific requirements apply to particular job categories such as agriculture and motor vehicle operation. There are also various exceptions to the general rules, such as allowing minors to work for their parents.

It’s worth noting that nonagricultural employers are required to prominently display the Minimum Wage Poster, issued by the Labor Department, at the workplace. This poster includes information about minimum age requirements that must be followed by the employer.

What are the Federal Laws on Working Hours for Minors in the US?

According to federal law, individuals aged 14-15 are subject to specific restrictions on their work hours as follows:

  • They are not permitted to work more than 8 hours in a day, with a maximum of 3 hours allowed on a school day.
  • They are limited to a maximum of 40 hours per week, while school is not in session.
  • They can work no more than 18 hours per week, while school is in session.
  • They are prohibited from working before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m..

On the other hand, there are no federal regulations that dictate the number of hours individuals aged 16-18 can work. 

It’s important to note that individual states have their own laws that govern the maximum working hours for minors which can be found in our detailed US State Labor Regulations.

What are the Federal Banned Jobs for Minors in the US?

Children are protected by federal law that prohibits them from engaging in certain tasks and jobs considered too dangerous. Although there are exceptions, the following is a list of occupations identified as posing significant risks to the safety and well-being of young workers and therefore, generally, not permitted for individuals under 18 years old:

  • Handling or manufacturing explosives
  • Driving or serving as an outside helper on motor vehicles
  • Coal mining
  • Mining
  • Logging and sawmilling activities
  • Firefighting or forest fire prevention
  • Timber tract operations
  • Forestry services
  • Operating power-driven woodworking machinery
  • Operating forklifts
  • Operating metal-forming, shearing, or punching machines
  • Operating power-driven bakery machinery
  • Operating power-driven paper-product machinery
  • Operating balers or compactors
  • Operating power-driven saws, shears, chippers, or abrasive cutting discs
  • Jobs in wrecking, demolitions, or ship-breaking fields
  • Operating power-driven slicing machines in meat packing or processing
  • Operating power-driven hoisting apparatus
  • Slaughtering or rendering poultry
  • Work involving exposure to radioactive substances or ionizing radiation
  • Manufacturing tile, brick, or related products
  • Work on or near a roof
  • Trenching and excavating

What are the Federal Sanctions for Employing Minors in the US?

Employers can face financial penalties for violating child labor laws. Civil money penalties can be imposed with each violation carrying a potential of up to $11,000 per affected employee. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) also allows for penalties that can be as high as $50,000 per violation in more severe cases where the violation results in the death or serious injury of a minor. These penalties may be doubled, up to $100,000, if the violations are deemed willful or repeated.

Further, the FLSA permits fines of up to $10,000 in situations involving willful violations of child labor rules. Additionally, if a person commits a second offense after being convicted of a prior offense, they can face imprisonment for a maximum of 6 months.

It’s worth noting that if an employer receives a penalty assessment, they have the right to challenge it by filing a written exception within 15 days. This initiates a hearing before an administrative law judge to review the matter. 

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide we have tried to make it accurate but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for use of this guide.